President Obama is going solo.Roger Hickey at The Huffington Post:
Having seen his ambitious agenda run aground against Republican recalcitrance, Obama is pivoting to a more unilateral approach to achieve his goals. And when he must go through Congress, Obama has shown he's willing to eschew bipartisanship when it seems like an impossibility. [...] To be sure, White House budget proposals are largely symbolic documents that outline a president's ideal budget, not the budget that will actually be passed by Congress. But by yanking a GOP-friendly proposal from the outset, Obama has made clear that negotiating with Republicans is a hopeless cause.
The chained CPI was always a negotiating ploy - an offer by the White House to show Republicans (and their corporate backers) that Democrats were willing to ignore the real retirement crisis in America in order to validate the conservative claim that Social Security was somehow contributing to an overblown deficit crisis. Social Security has its own funding stream and contributes not a penny to federal deficits. But the chained CPI, which would have meant immediate and serious cuts to people on Social Security, was repeatedly offered as a way for the White House to prove they were so serious about deficit-cutting they were willing to harm one of the most vulnerable groups that Democrats profess to care about.Much more on this and other stories below the fold.
This new victory over the Pete Peterson-style austerity-mongers is only the latest battle in a long war. And with each fight a stronger and stronger grassroots movement has been growing to protect - and expand - the very popular crown jewels of the New Deal and Great Society. We turned President Clinton away from his dalliance with partial privatization of Social Security - and then we stopped George W. Bush dead in his tracks when he tried to make real privatization the centerpiece of his second term.
As we mobilized with facts about the crucial importance of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in an era of recurring economic crises, the pro-social insurance movement grew - led by seniors and unions, the groups who got those programs passed in the first place. But organizations representing women and African Americans and Hispanics reminded their constituencies how important Social Security is to their economic security. And activist young people, now burdened by student loans and a lousy job market, came to realize the value of retirement and health care systems they could count on.
With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections. [...]Paul Krugman takes a look back at the stimulus:
A senior administration official said the budget would also propose new corporate tax rules aimed at preventing companies from moving profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. For instance, the rules will seek to limit a company’s ability to borrow domestically — and take large tax deductions on the interest — and then invest the money overseas.
Prohibiting corporations from gaming the tax code has been a popular issue among Senate Democrats and would help emphasize bread-and-butter themes in a year when Democrats will also be focusing on raising the minimum wage and other populist measures.
There’s a long-running debate over whether the Obama administration could have gotten more. The administration compounded the damage with excessively optimistic forecasts, based on the false premise that the economy would quickly bounce back once confidence in the financial system was restored.On the issue of CEO pay, Pat Garofalo writes:
But that’s all water under the bridge. The important point is that U.S. fiscal policy went completely in the wrong direction after 2010. With the stimulus perceived as a failure, job creation almost disappeared from inside-the-Beltway discourse, replaced with obsessive concern over budget deficits. Government spending, which had been temporarily boosted both by the Recovery Act and by safety-net programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits, began falling, with public investment hit worst. And this anti-stimulus has destroyed millions of jobs.
In other words, the overall narrative of the stimulus is tragic. A policy initiative that was good but not good enough ended up being seen as a failure, and set the stage for an immensely destructive wrong turn.
there’s a good reason for the focus on Wall Street pay. For tech firms, misaligned incentives aren’t likely to crash the economy. For Wall Street, however, short-term risk-taking in pursuit of bigger bonuses can cause systemic problems, as several studies have shown. That’s why the Dodd-Frank financial reform law included new regulations meant to tie executive compensation at banks to longer-term performance (and it didn’t hurt that reining in Wall Street pay makes for good politics). [...] the fact remains that Wall Street pay is unique due to its ability to cause harm to the wider economy. The simple solutions for reining in pay that would work in other industries – such as higher taxes, more transparency and stronger unions – don’t reduce that risk. And the fixes in Dodd-Frank, while helpful, haven’t done enough...Turning to the ACA, Don Hazaert, executive director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, makes a good point at The Detroit Free Press:
Recently released federal data also show that 88% of the health insurance plans purchased by Michigan consumers on Healthcare.gov are the more expensive silver, gold and platinum level plans, rather than the less expensive bronze plans. If consumers were finding the plans unaffordable, as critics hypothesized, we would expect to see much higher numbers of consumers selecting bronze level plans. Consumers are buying up in their coverageinstead because they are finding the plans so affordable. [...]
Market reform, under health care reform, is being phased in gradually over the next several years. But in the individual insurance market, where full implementation has occurred, rates for individual insurance policies in Michigan came in 16% below Congressional Budget Office estimates for this year. This confirms that the transparency and competition being created by the Healthcare.gov marketplace really does help control costs for consumers. In the coming years, as we fully implement reform in the small, medium and large group markets, businesses should see similar market pressures on insurers to restrain premium prices to remain competitive in group markets, as well.
The ACA is not perfect. No law is. Despite efforts by the industry and critics to spin events for financial, partisan or ideological reasons, the ACA is helping to slow costs and improve people’s lives. Consumers should remain steadfast in support of full implementation of the new health care law while remaining engaged with policymakers as unforeseen problems are identified and improvements inevitably need to be made in the coming years.