, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says the president has given away too much in his budget:
The budget should be focused on expanding the economy and creating jobs, ideally through more spending in infrastructure, education and research. It should also include funding for state and local governments to reverse layoffs and cutbacks that have slowed growth and raised unemployment.
Unfortunately, President Obama has accepted the agenda of the Washington elite, putting cuts to Social Security and Medicare at the center of his budget and offering little that will help to speed the growth of the economy and create jobs.
, professor of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley, agrees:
A chained CPI for Social Security doesn't even make sense as a negotiating strategy. The Republicans haven't asked for it. Not even Paul Ryan's draconian budget includes it. Democrats invented Social Security and have been protecting it for almost 80 years. The president shouldn't be leading the charge against it.
As does Andrew Fieldhouse
, Federal Budget Policy Analyst at the Economic Policy Institute:
The United States economy remains deeply depressed, austerity has proven a counterproductive failure, and deficit-financed job creation measures are the only guaranteed means of ensuring full recovery. Likewise, switching to the slower-rising "Chained CPI" for Social Security cost of living adjustments is not a technical improvement, but is instead just a poorly designed (and poorly rationalized) benefit cut.
But the pre-compromise on the Republicans' third rail—raising new revenue—makes zero sense.
More analysis on the day's top stories below the fold.
Stephen Henderson at The Detroit Free Press argues that the president's budget wrongly balances the nation's checkbook on the backs of the middle and impoverished classes:
But there are much better ways to bring the nation’s retirement program back into balance, and liberal interest groups are right to be screaming, some of them on the White House lawn, about how short-sighted the president’s budget proposal for Social Security is.
Chief among the alternatives to CPI chaining is lifting the cap on contributions. (People who make more than $113,700 don’t pay Social Security taxes on income exceeding that amount.) The Congressional Research Service concluded a few years ago that making everyone pay a portion of their entire income into Social Security would eliminate 95% of the program’s shortfall over 75 years, a monumental shift in outlook.
And let’s think about what that means: People with pretty healthy incomes (about 5.2% of all earners) would lose a regressive tax break (the cap allows them to pay less than the 6.2% everyone else pays into Social Security). But Social Security could survive for everyone. It also means recipients who have much less (Social Security keeps about 20 million Americans out of poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) would not see their benefits shrink for the sake of deficit reduction.
at The Atlantic
posits that President Obama's budget cuts Social Security and Medicare by much more than the GOP:
[I]t's easy to get the impression that the president hasn't met Republicans half-way with his cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the two biggest entitlement programs. In fact, he's exceeded them. The president's budget would spend less on both Medicare and Social Security than Ryan's GOP plan over the next ten years.
Turning to gun control, Senator Chris Murphy
lays down the facts proving that NRA's supposed electoral clout is a charade:
As a three-term member of Congress, I certainly had caught wind of the mythology surrounding the group — largely, that it wasn't an organization to be crossed. But I had never endeavored to figure out whether its fearsome political reputation was real or imagined. [...] And so I set about researching whether the popular perception of the NRA as an all-powerful representative of gun owners was real, or just a myth. As it turns out, the NRA is just one big paper tiger. [...]
For all the tens of millions of dollars the NRA pours into campaigns against candidates who oppose its positions, it has an absolutely miserable recent electoral track record. Out of 16 Senate races in which the NRA spent money in 2012, it lost 13. Contrary to public perception, if you were a Senate candidate in 2012 and the NRA targeted you for defeat, your chances of winning went up.
Even more damning is the NRA's performance in the 2012 presidential campaign. It openly and repeatedly stated that its top electoral priority was to defeat President Barack Obama. But in swing states with large numbers of gun owners — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia — the NRA lost badly.
Unfortunately, even though dozens of senators and congressmen want to do the right thing and vote for background checks and a high-capacity magazine ban, they may waver because they still believe the NRA hype. The outcome of the gun debate hinges on members of Congress letting go of their preconceived notions of the NRA's power.
Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun
editors look at what's going to be debated:
Making matters even more absurd, the Manchin-Toomey proposal actually has some sweeteners in it for the NRA crowd. It would allow gun dealers to sell across state lines and authorize gun owners with state-issued permits to carry concealed weapons to transport those weapons through states that don't allow them.
Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, family and friends of Newtown victims were holding signs pleading with the Senate to take a vote on the bill. Have the opponents no shame? Apparently, how they're scored by the NRA is more important to them than the kind of common sense restrictions backed by 9 out of 10 Americans and a whole lot of grieving families.
It's probably not even correct to call what's going to be debated in the Senate "gun control." It doesn't ban assault weapons, limit the size of ammunition magazines or create a national gun registry — as Mr. Obama had wanted. The failure of Congress to embrace these restrictions now leaves it up to states like Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Colorado to attempt to fill that large void.
On to education, there are quite a few pieces worth your time. John Merrow
at PBS chronicles Michelle Rhee's "Reign of Error":
It’s 2013. Is there any point to investigating probable cheating that occurred in 2008, 2009 and 2010? After all, the children who received inflated scores can’t get a ‘do-over,’ and it’s probably too late to claw back bonuses from adults who cheated, even if they could be identified. While erasure analysis would reveal the extent of cheating, what deserves careful scrutiny is the behavior of the leadership when it learned that a significant number of adults were probably cheating, because five years later, Rhee’s former deputy is in charge of public schools, and Rhee continues her efforts to persuade states and districts to adopt her approach to education reform–an approach, the evidence indicates, did little or nothing to improve the public schools in our nation’s capital.
This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate lesson, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”
That Michelle Rhee named her new organization “StudentsFirst” is beyond ironic.
Over at The Cleveland Plain Dealer
, Sharon Broussard
taked on test score worship:
A major academic cheating scandal involving the Atlanta Public Schools just might jolt states out of their lackadaisical oversight of school officials trying to game standardized tests as the results become more and more important in determining educators' prestige and pay.
Ken and Geraldine Grunow
That is the takeaway from last week's stories about one of the nation's former rock-star school superintendents being forced to show up like a common criminal to get her bail reduced to $200,000 from $7.5 million.
If Beverly Hall did what the grand jury says she did -- she and 34 other indicted Atlanta public school educators have pleaded not guilty -- she murdered a good number of students' dreams of a better life by giving them an indifferent education, at best, while getting handsomely paid to do it. That's something that state officials and lawmakers should care about.
at The Detroit Free Press
argues that Senator Carl Levin should close out his legacy by fighting to close Guantanamo:
evin can lead his colleagues in Congress in letting the restrictions on the transfer of Guantánamo detainees expire, and stand up against any attempt by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and others to make them permanent.
This would pave the way for a sensible and safe solution to the Guantánamo mess: prosecuting the detainees against whom there is a case fairly in U.S. federal courts, and transferring those who have been cleared to leave for countries that will respect their human rights.
Over at The Nation
, Reed Richardson
has an awesome takedown of FOX News and its relevance:
To keep relying on a shrinking number of elderly, white and male subsets of the public, whether to win elections or win ratings, has become a strategy of diminishing returns, however. "I think that you can't separate the problem at Fox [News] from the problem that the Republicans are going through," Bartlett says. He can speak firsthand to this incestuous relationship, as his 2006 book, Impostor—which broke with party orthodoxy over the Bush administration's deficit spending—quickly made him persona non grata at Fox News, he says. (Fox News did not respond to questions about his comment.) "The Republicans are trying to retool to win. That's all they care about, and they're trying to decide, 'How can we be more pragmatic? How can we shave off the rough edges? How can we get rid of the whack jobs who are embarrassing us, costing us Senate seats? But at the same time, we can't do this in such a way that it alienates our base.'" Fox News faces a similar dilemma, Bartlett contends: "It's 'How do we modernize? How do we attract new audiences without losing the old audience? How do we remain relevant without abandoning our traditions?'"
These are fundamental questions, and lately Fox News's
fundamentals—audience, ratings and public trust—have faltered. A 2010 study by Steve Sternberg found the network's viewership to be the oldest (with an average age of 65) among an already elderly cable news audience. (CNN's was 63 and MSNBC's was 59.) By comparison, lifestyle cable channels Oxygen, Bravo and TLC were among the youngest, with an average viewer age of 42. And with MSNBC's recent decision to plug 34-year-old rising star Chris Hayes into the coveted
8 pm slot, the average age of that network's prime-time hosts will now be 45, while Fox News's rotation, anchored by 63-year-old Bill O'Reilly, has an average age of 57.
Bonus link of the day: "The Scourge of Awesomely Bad Photoshopping in China"
by Matt Schiavenza
at The Atlantic.