While President Obama and the Democrats have talked a lot about protecting the middle class from tax hikes and entitlement cuts in any debt deal that eventually emerges from the fiscal nightmare, it looks increasingly likely that food stamps will come under the knife. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate budget committee, has takenthelead recently in attacking these "gifts" to the poor. Monday night on CNN, Sessions said the food-stamp program—which now serves a record 47 million people—is "out of control" and needs to be cut down to size. But Soledad O'Brien took him to school.
Offshore tax havens—like the ones Mitt Romney has relied on—screw the federal treasury out of some $150 billion a year, but as Congress and the president haggle over where to scrimp and save, there's been nary a mention of this potential deficit-busting gold mine. Today, the consumer group USPIRG released a report detailing what we could do with all that cash.
At least 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations in America shield large chunks of their income from taxes by keeping it overseas, according to the Government Accountability Office. In fact, according to the USPIRG report, 30 of the nation's biggest, richest companies actually profited off the tax code between 2008 and 2010, by avoiding taxes and getting tax refunds from the government. USPIRG notes that one of the techniques Google used to save $3.1 billion over that time period is called "double Irish," and involves two Irish subsidiaries and one in the tax haven Bermuda.
But Gohmert's nay vote wasn't out of self-interest. As the Washington Post reports, it was due to his sense of civic duty: "To keep spending and not pay the price, that is immoral," Gohmert said. "That's why we shouldn’t eliminate the word 'lunatic.' It really has application around this town...We want to eliminate the word 'lunatic' from the federal code? That's lunacy."
Wild bets by taxpayer-insured banks helped put the US economy in the toilet four years ago. With financial regulators scrambling post-election to finalize long overdue rules for Wall Street, banks have intensified their war on regulation. In particular, the financial industry is lobbying like mad to add key loopholes to the Volcker rule, a provision of the sweeping 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act that is supposed to restrict high-risk speculation by commercial banks.
During the campaign, Mitt Romney vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank, and regulatory agencies were waiting to finish crafting the details of the Volcker rule. Whether that rule will emerge as Congress intended, or as a watered-down half-measure, is what's at stake in the current battle between reformers and industry.
Republicans have apparently taken a cue from presidential loser Mitt Romney on how to put together a budget plan: Explain nothing. House Speaker John Boehner's latest offer, issued Monday, proposes serious reductions in spending, but fails to specify exactly how those cuts would play out in reality, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
CBPP did the wonk work for Boehner, and concluded "the health care cuts in the Republican offer will likely be draconian":
For months, we have studied options to generate savings in this part of the budget, and we can’t get close to $600 billion...with items that wouldn’t seriously hurt low-income and vulnerable individuals.... Some news accounts report the House Republican leaders would raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and increase Medicare premiums for more affluent beneficiaries, although those items are not mentioned anywhere in the new offer. But if so, those measures would raise only about one quarter of the $600 billion.
Republicans' most recent budget offer also includes $300 billion in blanket cuts to "non-health mandatory programs," which includes things like disability benefits and Food Stamps. There are no specifics there, either.
"The proposal is an exercise in 'look Ma, no hands' budgeting," CBPP director Robert Greenstein said in a statement.
An additional $300 billion is slashed from discretionary spending, including education, childcare, and research. Here the CBPP says they can better assess what the damage will be. As the CBPP's James Horney explains, since Republicans aren't going to make any more defense cuts, low-income programs will inevitably be on the table. Conclusion: "Adding large further cuts on top of the steep cuts that [last year's deficit reduction pact] requires would be most unwise," according to Greenstein.
So why the reluctance to include the nuts and bolts on how spending cuts will work out? Math. The CBPP says there isn't enough revenue in Boehner's plan to cover all the spending—not even the cost of keeping Bush tax cuts for the rich and keeping estate taxes low. As a middle-school pre-Algebra teacher might say, "Show your work."