U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, has staked out a position on the debt reduction plans now being thrashed out by the bipartisan “supercommittee.” Larsen says he agrees that the nation would benefit from a big deficit cut, but he fears that Republican proposals would harm Medicare and Social Security and the people who rely on them, while making it harder for the US to invest in the future.
Larsen sent out a press release outlining his position after he voted against a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That amendment was defeated in the House. Here’s CNN’s report.
Here is Larsen’s press release:
WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today voted against a Republican balanced budget amendment that could require steep cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
“I voted against the amendment because it would balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens,” Larsen said. “I am a strong supporter of restoring fiscal discipline through responsible means. I recently sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction calling on them to ‘go big’ by presenting a bold plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. (Stark note: Larsen is one of 100 members of Congress from both parties who signed this letter.)
“The latest proposal to amend the Constitution that Republicans put to a vote today would have disproportionately targeted Medicare and Social Security, while allowing corporations and the highest earners to benefit from massive tax cuts. It would have also barred the federal government from taking on debt to invest in the future of our economy—from infrastructure improvement, to clean energy to education. Without this sort of investment, our economy will not be able to grow and provide the jobs that Americans need.
“Former Washington Governor Daniel Evans recently called the balanced budget amendment ‘an impractical idea’ for which the consequences ‘could be disastrous.’ (Links to Evans’ op-ed piece in Seattle Times.)
“Independent analysts argue that the balanced budget requirement, if applied to the current fiscal year, would require cuts totaling $1.5 trillion, resulting in the loss of 15 million jobs. That would double the unemployment rate from 9 to 18 percent.
“The path to real deficit reduction and a balanced budget requires sacrifices from all Americans. From reducing spending, like cutting agriculture subsidies and accelerating the drawdown in Afghanistan, to increasing revenue by closing tax loopholes for massively profitable companies and restoring tax rates on the highest earners, we can achieve our aims through shared sacrifice and bipartisan compromise.
“While some in Washington, D.C. want to slash entitlement spending, we must protect the benefits that our seniors have earned. Medicare must remain a guaranteed benefit and not converted to a voucher system. Social Security’s long-term solvency can be ensured if we lift the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.”
“We can achieve major deficit reduction without shredding the social safety net, but we will only do so if we set partisan gimmicks like this balanced budget amendment aside and work together on these sensible solutions.”
End Rick Larsen press release
On Friday, House Republicans voted almost unanimously for a budget proposal that would phase out Medicare for people under 55.
“Either the normal rules of American politics have changed, or Republicans have walked into an electoral buzz saw,” NBC’s Mark Murray says on the network’s First Read blog.
Murray cites poll data that seems to demonstrate a lot of public support for Medicare, and public wariness over plans that would shift senior citizens back into full reliance on private insurance plans.
What do you think?
Bipartisanship is much-discussed but seldom on display in the nation’s capital. Today, we see a significant exception. A U.S. Senate panel has issued a report that accuses Goldman Sachs and other major financial players of self-dealing in the runup to the financial crisis that shook the global economy. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, and Carl Levin, D-Mich., issued a joint press release on their findings.
You can also get to the full report of more than 600 pages by following the links listed here, on the website of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
While news accounts of this report tend to focus on Goldman, there is also a lot of unflattering post-mortem on Washington Mutual, the giant mortgage lender that became one of the biggest casualties of the real estate bust. The report underlines WaMu’s risky mortgage lending practices, and the failure of federal regulators to curb those practices, even though people within the bank itself were trying to warn top management about the danger.
Levin also accused some financial executives of making misleading statements when they testified before the panel. Roger Clemens is awaiting trial on similar charges.
President Barack Obama will propose today a plan that is meant to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade.
Among other things, he will again advocate higher taxes for those making more than $250,000–a measure that appears to enjoy the support of a majority of Americans, according to poll data. He also wants to reduce the defense budget–something that was not a part of the most recent budget deal between Congressional Republicans and the White House.
Scott Brown delighted Republicans when he won an election that enabled him to serve out the remainder of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s term after the Massachusetts liberal lion died in 2009.
But now, Politico reports, one Tea Party leader says Brown is throwing his former supporters under the bus in arguing against cutting social and cultural program funding too deeply.
Brown is modulating his message in an understandable effort to improve his reelectability in what tends to be a blue state. (Mitt Romney did the same when he was running for and serving as the state’s governor, and the positions he embraced then are still haunting his latest likely presidential candidacy.)
Brown’s moderation has provoked talk of running a more acceptable Tea Party person against him in the next Republican primary.
Combing through the federal budget in search of strange federal spending projects has always been good sport for journalists, as well as politicians of both parties. The late Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat, got national publicity with his “Golden Fleece” award for projects he considered absurd and wasteful.
One man gathers what another man spills.
From John Stark
Today I got another one of those outraged political emails. You know the ones I’m talking about. The subject line usually has exclamation points and reads something like “Please!!! Take a minute to read this!!!” Somewhere in the text, it says PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!
In past months, I have received messages like this claiming that the Obamas were going to change the name of the White House Christmas Tree to “Holiday Tree,” and that Nancy Pelosi was proposing a tax on 401K accounts to cover the cost of federal benefits for illegal aliens. (Neither one of these was remotely true.)
The most recent one claims that members of Congress can retire on full salary after just one term in office, and that Congressional staffers don’t have to pay back their student loans.
When you get an email like this, take one simple step before forwarding it to everyone you know: visit snopes.com.
Snopes is one of the finest websites in the universe. It debunks hoaxes of every description, not just political. A simple search of the site enables you to quickly determine the truth or falsehood of email messages and warnings.
For my most recent email, snopes.com provided links to background documents that thoroughly debunked both of these false reports about Congress:
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, will speak at the Bellingham City Club on Wednesday, March 23.
“Mr. Larsen will share his views on what he expects this Congress will accomplish, explain his
role in making this happen, comment on the realities of moving from the majority party to the minority party in Congress and take questions from City Club members,” according to a City Club press release.
After winning re-election last November, Larsen is now in his sixth term.
A buffet lunch is served at 11:50 a.m., and the program starts at 12:20 p.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. It’s open to the public. For members of the club, the cost is $11. For non-members, it’s $16. They meet at Northwood Hall, 3240 Northwest Ave.
Click here for more details.
While the power struggle with public employee unions in many states may fire up the Republican Party’s base, it may not be a big winner with the public as a whole.
Here’s another poll reported in the New York Times that indicates strong levels of support for public employees and their rights to unionize for collective bargaining.
It may be too early to gauge the political impact of this power struggle in Wisconsin and other states, as well as the impact of the power struggle over the federal budget and the possibility of a government shutdown.
The impact won’t be clear until everything shakes out. By the fall of 2012, the outcome of all this fiscal and political brinksmanship will be clear. Will slashed state and federal budgets trigger renewed recession, as some claim? Will political hardball with unions lead to public sector chaos and reduced quantity and quality of government services? It’s too soon to answer those questions, but the answers will determine whether Democrats or Republicans can reap political windfalls.
We can also hope that there are leaders in both parties thinking about what’s best for us, as well as for them.
I love with the Politics blog the fact that you can blog about Ferndale planning one minute and the USA PATRIOT Act the next.
The U.S. House passed an extension of some provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that are set to expire at the end of the month. It’s not the extension through 2013 that the president wants; instead, it would extend the provisions through Dec. 8 of this year. Click here to see more.
The provisions relate to the following, according to The Los Angeles Times:
• The library provision, which lets authorities with a court order investigate many types of documents, including library records, of terrorism suspects.
• A roving wire tap that allows them to conduct surveillance on suspects when they change phones or locations.
• The lone-wolf provision, which allows surveillance of foreigners even if they aren’t associated with terrorist groups.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, last week voted in a bid to extend the provisions. The bid failed, with some Tea Party-Republicans against the provisions, saying they intrude too far into Americans’ privacy. Then he voted against the extension. Click here to see a tally of votes from the second attempt to extend the provisions. Here is a statement his office released about why the change of heart:
As recently as last week, I voted to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act, but I can do so no longer. The failure of these provisions to pass last week has given me a bit more time to consider my position. The thing that has changed in the last week when I voted for the extension of the Patriot Act revisions is: Enough.
Enough of extending these provisions without anything but what amounts to a pro forma debate about the balance between security and privacy;
Enough of the delay in developing an appropriate Congressional oversight mechanism of the Patriot Act implementation; Continue reading
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and his counterparts in 25 other states have mounted a constitutional challenge to the health care reform act on constitutional grounds.
As a recent McKenna press release puts it, the new law contains “the unprecedented and unconstitutional requirement that all Americans must obtain or purchase private health care insurance or face a fine.” (italics added.)
But it turns out that in 1798, the Fifth U.S. Congress approved a measure setting up a health care system for privately-employed U.S. merchant marine sailors. The sailors paid for this health system themselves via mandatory pay deductions. The health system established for that purpose evolved into the U.S. Public Health Service.
Among other things, Ungar notes that members of the Fifth Congress did not have to ponder the intent of the Constitution’s framers. Many of them WERE framers. Ungar’s blog contains links to the 1798 legislation, which takes up one and one-quarter pages. It was a simpler time.
Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham-Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called my attention to this via Facebook.
Chinese President Hu Jintao apparently got an earful from Congressional leaders of both parties during his visit to Washington D.C. Thursday, Jan. 20.
American political leaders are pressing China on nuts-and-bolts stuff like intellectual property law, access to Chinese consumer markets and currency policies. But both Nancy Pelosi and John McCain, among other notables, have also raised human rights concerns.
Does it accomplish anything when U.S. leaders lecture another country about human rights abuses? Do you think it’s likely to push the target country toward reform? Or will it only make matters worse? Are U.S. leaders pressing these issues out of real concern about human rights, or are they just posturing to impress their own constituents?
As U.S. House Republicans move toward a repeal vote on health care reform, Democrats are launching a vigorous effort to defend the bill — an effort that seems a lot more coherent than anything they were able to muster while the bill was before Congress, or while Democratic Congressmen were before voters last November.
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is offering a state-by-state analysis of what health care repeal would mean. And HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Gov. Chris Gregoire have scheduled a joint conference call to discuss how many state residents are benefitting from the reforms.
Here’s a link to HHS statistics for Washington state.
At the same time, there is evidence that health care reform is getting some grudging support in unexpected quarters. A recent AP poll showed that while opposition to it remains strong, that opposition is waning and even opponents see things they like in the complex legislation.
The AP report on poll results includes this: “Among Republicans support for repeal has dropped sharply, from 61 percent after the elections to 49 percent now.”
That’s striking. One can speculate that many conservative Republicans may be realizing that the reform bill contains benefits for them. Millions of Americans have pre-existing medical conditions that are costly to treat, and the health care reform law eventually will make it easier for them to get affordable coverage. You don’t have to be a liberal to find that prospect attractive. The Los Angeles Times has a report.
Another sign that politicians on both sides of the aisle are taking a more nuanced approach: Via Huffington Post, physician and former GOP Senator Bill Frist says his party should get beyond the repeal effort and focus on using the existing law as a platform to build a better health care system for everyone.
In red state Oklahoma, a poll in the Tulsa World indicates that many Sooners feel as conflicted on this issue as a Ron Paul supporter cashing a Social Security check. Two-thirds favored Oklahoma taking legal efforts to block the health-care reform, but only 37 percent said the entire law should be repealed. And, even among those who said the entire law should be repealed, about two-thirds then identified at least one element of it they thought should be retained.
In Whatcom County and most other places, home mortgage foreclosures have been occurring at unprecedented levels for two or three years now.
Federal efforts to help homeowners have had limited success at best, with only a fraction of homeowners getting meaningful relief from mortgage modification programs.
But as the wave of foreclosures grows and to some extent feeds on itself, we may expect to see more government action at both the state and federal level, as political pressure grows along with homeowner distress.
The Washington Post reports that Congress is expected to confront the situation this year. Key development: Giant investors are now allied, to some extent, with homeowners to force reform of mortgage lenders’ record-keeping practices.
At the state level, Washington AG Rob McKenna and his peers in other states are several months into an investigation of mortgage loan servicing practices and foreclosure procedures.
How bad is the situation in Whatcom County? My own unofficial tally for the month of December, 2010 shows 71 homes in the county got a notice of trustee’s sale — meaning the home will be auctioned by the mortgage holder within 90 days if nothing can be worked out.
At least 36 homes were actually sold in foreclosure during the month, although these are more difficult to track online than the foreclosure sale notices. In most cases, there were no bidders at the auction, and title to the home simply went back to the mortgage holder.