Thursday, August 4, 2011

White House Counters Myths About Debt Ceiling Deal

President Obama signs Budget Control Act of 2011
The White House released a new infographic today to help explain the details of the Budget Control Act, the bipartisan compromise the president and congressional leaders reached in order to raise the debt ceiling earlier this week.

The graphic is intended to make the actual content of the budget deal clear and to dispel various myths and misinformation that have been swirling in the public dialogue both before and after the deal was made public.

Click to enlarge image
The top of the graphic outlines the three key elements of the budget deal: 1) the lifting of the debt ceiling by at least $2.1 trillion through 2013; 2) the schedule of spending cuts amounting to almost $3 trillion (with notes that Pell Grants are protected and that the cuts are balanced between domestic and defense spending); and 3) the establishment of the bipartisan committee that must identify additional spending cuts of$1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by November of this year.

The graphic breaks into further detail the workings of this "super committee," explaining that it will consist of six members from each party and that the legislation it sends to the floors of the two houses will be fast-tracked and protected against filibusters and amendments, two processes that traditionally slow, kill, or neutralize legislation.

Writing on the White House blog, Jon Carson-- deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement--sought to counter several common misunderstandings about the budget deal with facts:
Myth: President Obama caved.

Fact: President Obama laid out key priorities that had to be part of any deal. Those priorities are reflected in this compromise. First, we avoided default which would have plunged the economy into a deep recession, imperiling the well-being of millions of Americans. Second, the initial down payment on deficit reductions does not cut low-income and safety-net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Third, we set up a path forward that will put pressure on Congress to adopt a balanced approach. And finally, we raised the debt ceiling until 2013, ensuring that House Republicans could not use the threat of default in just a few months to force severe cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Myth: Republicans got everything they wanted

Fact: They won’t admit it publicly, but when push came to shove, Republicans backed down on their key demands. For months, Republicans called for a budget that would have ended Medicare as we know it, made catastrophic cuts to Medicaid, or cut investments in education by 25 percent, clean energy by 70 percent and infrastructure spending by 30 percent. As if that wasn’t enough, they also demanded that we repeat this debt-ceiling crisis, just a few months from now.

None of these of these demands made it into a final deal.

Myth: This deal cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Fact: There are no changes to these programs included in the initial phase of this agreement. In the second phase of the agreement, everything will be on the table – and the President has made clear that the committee must pursue a balanced approach where reforms to programs like Medicaid, Social Security or Medicare would only be acceptable if coupled with higher revenues from the most fortunate.

Myth: This deal reduces the deficit entirely on the backs of the middle class.

Fact: While the initial down payment on deficit reduction - about $1 trillion – will require belt-tightening, it still will allow us to invest in the programs and priorities we care about most. Moreover, hundreds of billions of this initial round of cuts will come from security spending.

As we negotiated the domestic side of the cuts, we protected our historic new investments in Pell Grants as part of the down payment. For the second phase, we made sure that  programs for the most vulnerable, like food stamps, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit, would not be hit by the “trigger,” the automatic cuts that will go into place if Congress does not find an acceptable compromise.

Myth: The joint committee -- the so-called "super committee" -- makes it easier for Congress to cut the programs we care about.

Fact: The joint committee system puts pressure on Republicans to seek compromise. As we all know, in this round of deficit reduction, there wasn’t a lot of leverage bringing Republicans to the table. In round two, that changes.

If Republicans aren't willing to compromise, then the joint committee will fail. This would automatically trigger an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction designed to be painful for both sides, with half that coming from savings in the defense budget.

Myth: Since we weren’t able to raise revenues right now, we won’t be able to raise revenues in the future.

Fact: The deal lays out two paths for further reducing our deficit. Both of them include revenues. Option one is for the joint committee to develop a plan that is passed by both Houses of Congress, and signed by President Obama. The President has already said that he will only support a balanced approach involving shared sacrifice. That means raising revenue through steps such as closing loopholes for corporations, reforming our tax code, and asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes.

If the joint committee cannot develop a balanced compromise,that brings us to option two for raising revenues: the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. On January 1, 2013, President Obama can use his veto pen to end special tax breaks for high-income Americans if Congress votes to extend them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords Votes as House Passes Debt Ceiling Deal

Gabrielle Giffords waves to House colleagues (photo from CNN)
The debt ceiling ball is now in the U.S. Senate's court as the House voted today 269-161 to pass the deal agreed upon by President Obama and Congressional Leaders yesterday.

While there is still widespread anger over the drama created by the Republican refusal to lift the debt ceiling without ransom-like concessions, and dissatisfaction on both sides over the terms of the deal, there was one hugely positive emotional event in the midst of it all.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returned to the floor of the House to cast a vote on the bill. It was her first appearance there since she was shot in the head at a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson in January. She was accompanied by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, and close friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Giffords was greeted at the door by Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and received a prolonged standing ovation from her House colleagues. Vice President Joe Biden also stopped by to see her.
When Biden was asked about what he spoke with Giffords about, he joked, "She's now a member of the cracked head club like me."
In a statement, Giffords explained why she felt obligated to vote today.
"I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what's going on in Washington," Giffords said in a statement. "After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."
 The Senate must pass the bill early tomorrow, August 2, to ensure that it can be signed by President Obama in time to avoid a government default.

GOP Fundraising Page Inadvertently Concedes 2012 Presidential Election

You want to know why the GOP is behaving so desperately these days? I think it's because they are, in fact, feeling desperate.

Exhibit A: The fundraising page of the GOP's official website has a graphic celebrating "President Obama's Last Day," which they apparently think will be January 20, 2017:

GOP: We'll get Obama out of office by the end of his second term, or else!
Either this is an accidentally revealed indicator of the GOP's lack of confidence in their chances of winning the presidency next year, or else it's a very clever fake-out designed to make Democrats overconfident and cause them to slack off on their own fundraising and volunteer recruitment efforts.

But since we are talking about the party that denies the disastrous effects of global climate change and has attempted to legally bar the U.S. government from purchasing power-saving fluorescent light bulbs, I feel safe in ruling out any explanation that relies on GOP cleverness.

(Hat-tip to

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