When you push the costs of education beyond the means of your people, you have to find the money somewhere. Interesting approach to higher education from a group of blue bloods who never worry much about their own ability to pay for things. Why are the Brazilians funding the financial gap for this government?
David Willetts, the universities minister, flew to South America last month to arrange a deal that he hopes will be highly lucrative at a time of cuts to state funding for higher education. The Brazilian government is planning to provide up to £18,700 a student.
Universities UK, the representative body for universities in this country, said it welcomed the plan, which promised "rich rewards".
The development follows a £200m cut by the coalition government to state funding for higher education, which will mean 24,000 fewer places for UK and EU students, including teacher training allotments, over the next two academic years. Figures published last week also suggested that 220,000 UK and EU students would be unable to attain places this autumn following a 1.4% year-on-year increase in demand for university places as of the end of June.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said yesterday that Iraq’s fractious political blocs will decide within two weeks whether to ask the United States for a continued troop presence beyond the withdrawal deadline at the end of this year. “We agreed that our brothers in the political parties are to consult their parties and come back again after two weeks with a final stand,” he said. Talibani’s chief of staff said the issue will be delayed until all political parties agree on who will fill the vacant interior and defense minister posts.
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If you've heard bloggers use the term "Grand Bargain" and you don't understand what it means, it refers to the theoretical packaging of a very big deal on third-rail issues that's so unpleasant for both sides, it's in effect a political wash. The idea is, it's reform that doesn't leave either side at a political disadvantage. (Please note that Obama's intentions to do so were known in February 2009.) On our side, Social Security and Medicare cuts; on their side, tax increases.
Anyway, it looks like the Grand Bargain is coming unraveled - but we can't relax just yet since it's been reported that the chained CPI for Social Security benefits is included in Joe Biden's smaller plan, the one to which Republicans have already agreed.
This isn't a victory for eleventy-dimensional chess, because no matter what, we still have a Democratic president offering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts and validating the right-wing view of the universe, and we're still talking about spending cuts during a prolonged recession -- as if they'll help.
We'll see what the White House is asking Democrats to support as part of the final deal after today's debt ceiling talks. Stay tuned.
House Speaker John A. Boehner abandoned efforts Saturday night to reach a comprehensive debt-reduction deal worth more than $4 trillion in savings, telling President Obama that a midsize package was the only politically possible alternative to avoid a first-ever default on the nation?s mounting national debt.
Boehner (R-Ohio) told Obama ? who is hosting a key meeting Sunday evening on the debt issue ? that their efforts to ?go big,? as the speaker says, were stymied by the toughest issues: taxes and entitlements. Democrats continued to insist on tax reforms that would not pass muster in the conservative-dominated House, and Republicans wanted cuts to programs such as Medicare and Social Security that Obama and Senate Democrats would oppose.
?Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes. I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase,? Boehner said in a statement released less than 24 hours before the Obama meeting is to take place.
House Speaker John Boehner just announced that he has abandoned the $4 trillion "grand bargain" pushed by President Obama, a day before Congressional leaders were to meet at the White House for a final set of talks. Boehner said that only the medium-term[...]
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Veteran Washington observer Jack Germond warns that Obama is risking his entire presidency by putting Social Security and Medicare on the table in the on-again-off-again talks with Republicans over the federal deficit, and in a larger sense the American social compact.
"President Obama is taking an extraordinary political risk with his sudden move to bring the entitlement programs into the negotiations over the national debt," says Germond. "Indeed, it is by no means hysterical to suggest his re-election is at stake."
Germond says the President is betting the American people will recognize "both the necessity and wisdom" of making changes in the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs that make up the safety net for most of them.
"He is betting on a maturity in the electorate that has rarely been evident in this age of instant and pervasive partisanship," says Germond, citing as evidence the election-losing truth-telling of Walter Mondale who lost to Ronald Reagan in 1984 after declaring that whoever won the election would have to raise taxes to stem the torrent of government red ink.
"Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did," said Mondale in a line that provided both an accurate prediction of Reagan's later actions, who raised taxes several times, but also a memorable contribution to campaign folklore as a warning to candidates about how far they can actually go in leveling with the American people.
But in the present sparing match over the budget, I wonder just how much of a risk Obama is really taking by signaling a willingess to trim the social safety net. Sure, we liberals are incensed. But could it be that President Obama has taken the measure of his opposite numbers and recognizes that he is playing with house money -- in this case, Republican House money. When Obama bets the heart and soul of the Democratic Party could it be that he acting on a hunch that Republican negotiators are bluffing and have no cards to play, since they have no real interest in repairing the nation's tattered fiscal situation if that means both sides must pony up and make sacrifices?
The President's wager seems to be paying off with reports in the Washington Post this morning that House Speaker John Boehner abandoned efforts late Saturday night to cut a far-reaching debt-reduction deal after telling Obama a more modest package (i.e. budget cuts only) offers the only "politically realistic" (i.e. what Tea Party Republicans are willing to unconditionally accept) path to avoiding a default on the mounting national debt.
"On the eve of a critical White House summit on the debt issue, Boehner told Obama that their plan to 'go big,' in the speaker's words, and forge a compromise that would save more than $4 trillion over the next decade, was crumbling under Obama's insistence on significant new tax revenue," the Post reported.
"Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement released less than 24 hours before the White House meeting was scheduled to begin.
"I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase."
The Post says Boehner's decision leaves negotiators reexamining a less-ambitious framework crafted by Vice President Biden that saves just $2.4 trillion over the next decade. But acceptance of the Biden package by Boehner's own caucus is by no means assured, says the Post, since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also walked out of those negotiations over the tax issue.
But it's also possible that the importance of Boehner's decision has nothing to do the Biden plan. Instead, it proves Obama was right all along in his original hunch that the tax-cutting, anti-government fanaticism of the Republican Party runs so deep that Obama could safely bet the entire New Deal and Republicans would still not be able to call the President's bet if significant tax increases on the wealthy were also part of the wager.
And according to the Post: "The sweeping deal Obama and Boehner had been discussing would have required both parties to take a bold leap into the political abyss. Democrats were demanding more than $800 billion in new tax revenue, causing heartburn among the hard-line fiscal conservatives who dominate the House Republican caucus. Republicans, meanwhile, were demanding sharp cuts to Medicare and Social Security, popular safety net programs that congressional Democrats have vowed to protect."
Obama, at least, "was willing to make that leap and had put significant reductions to entitlement programs on the table," said the Post. "But on Saturday, Boehner blinked: Republican aides said he could not, in the end, reach agreement with the White House on a strategy to permit the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest households to expire next year, as lawmakers undertook a thorough rewrite of the tax code."
Once Boehner folded his hand all Democrats had to do was gather up the chips in the pot while making the obvious point that Boehner and Republicans were "placing tax breaks for the rich above the nation's financial salvation," said the Post.
"We cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts. We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well, and we believe the American people agree," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement that practically wrote itself.
As the Post reported this morning, the Sunday meeting at the White House will go on as scheduled, and Pfeiffer said Obama "will continue to press for a broad deal aimed at stabilizing the soaring national debt."
It's possible, of course, that President Obama really has become a sell-out on the American safety net.
But more likely, my guess is that Obama had found a way to turn the tables on Republicans: If Republicans think they can hold the debt ceiling hostage and blackmail Democrats into gutting the New Deal to prevent the country from going into default, Obama believes he can do the same thing to Republicans by offering them a balanced package that includes Social Security and Medicare cuts in exchange for tax hikes on the rich, which Obama is convinced a radicalized Republican Party will never be able to accept.
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The video above is an excerpt from a speech Franklin Roosevelt gave at Madison Square garden in 1936, just up the road from Wall Street. And it was to Wall Street-- and their Republican handmaidens-- he addressed:
Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.
For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace?business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.
I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.
There is no fiscal crisis. Everyone should be clear on that.
The United States is not bankrupt. Social Security is not about to founder. Wall Street is not on a precipice, the IMF is not standing by demanding massive shifts in our government, and U.S. bonds are not trading 1:1 with Charmin. There is nothing wrong.
Nothing except that the Republican Party is prepared to slice the nation's throat to get its way.
Real crises do exist. There are moments in a nation's history where the government must take abrupt action, either military or fiscal, to prevent disaster. In the collapse of 2008, some might disagree with the exact nature of the action the Bush administration took in bailing out banks that had recklessly overextended themselves, but there's little doubt that there was a real problem and without action there was a chance that it could grow from disaster to catastrophe.
That's not the case this time. Not only does solving the issue at hand not require the launching of a single ship, it doesn't require the expenditure of a single dime. Raising the debt limit does not commit the United States to any debt it has not already incurred. Refusing to raise that limit is no more an act of fiscal prudence than refusing to pay the restaurant for a meal already eaten.
Not only is the money already spent, the Republicans are the ones who spent it. It's not Social Security that drove up the debt over the last decade. Social Security is responsible for 0% of the deficit. Make that 0.00%, to be exact. The deficit that the Republicans are railing against is driven by the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the cost of the recently extended Bush tax cuts. You know what'll happen if we cut Social Security? We'll get less Social Security, not less deficit.
It's funny that politicians on both sides of the aisle keep demanding that "everything be on the table," when what they really mean is that "everything not responsible for the problem be on the table." Not that it matters. The truth is that Republicans aren't interested in solving the problem. They're making the problem. They invented it from thin, hot air and they're entirely invested in seeing that the problem gets worse.
Don't think the Republicans would put the nation at risk on purpose? Consider this: the only thing they won't even think about, the only option so odious they'll walk out of the room rather than talk about it, is precisely the only thing that would actually help. If we allow the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled?all of the cuts?the deficit will dry up and the nation will return to sound fiscal standing in short order. If we don't allow those unsustainable rates to expire ... then we will. If we go down after making cuts in Social Security and health care, then we'll we'll only succeed in making a lot of people miserable to no purpose. Only returning taxes to viable levels will help.
If Republicans were actually concerned about the fiscal health of the nation, they would sign onto raising the debt ceiling without hesitation or condition. Because there's nothing wrong, and because raising the limit would cost nothing. Instead they've created a completely artificial problem as nothing more than an excuse to extend the damage they've already caused. It's really a wonderful little game they've created: drive the nation so far into debt that there's no choice but to raise the limit, then use raising the limit as an excuse to create more debt. No wonder they call it red ink.
The only crisis we're facing is that one of our nation's political parties has decided to hold its breath until the nation turns red. And the media, the public, and the opposing party are treating this massive tantrum with far more respect than it deserves.
The collapse of negotiations around $4 trillion in debt reduction and House Speaker John Boehner’s preference to scale the scope of discussion back to $2 trillion in hopes that will somehow generate a deal with no tax increases isn’t surprising. But it is, again, a useful reminder of where the American conservative movement is at. There’s been a fair amount of discussion recently about why it is that the GOP is so uncompromising in pursuit of its ideological goals, much of it very enlightening. What’s strange, though, is how narrowly focused those goals are.
The nature of legislative compromise, after all, is that you accommodate someone else’s objectives in order to obtain your objectives. A movement that actually believed that reducing federal spending was extremely important would, it seems to me, be quite willing to make concessions in order to obtain large quantities of spending cuts. Viewed in that light, it’s not obvious to me that backing away from a $4 trillion deal primarily composed of spending cuts constitutes a “more conservative” option than saying yes. You’re seeing that very little has changed in practice from the Bush years, when the GOP agenda consisted of aggressive tax cutting made palatable by refusing to pair the cuts with spending reductions. Now, ostensibly, cutting spending is the order of the day. But the bargaining strategy is entirely built around a tax-focused goal rather than a spending-focused one.
Don't be naive; the Supreme Court has always been a political cesspool, pitting the two sides of the current political battle against each other. In the 19th century the big fight was over slavery, in the 20th civil rights, in the 21st corporate power.
And the forces of conservative reaction have always been eager to torture all meaning out of the Constitution to justify their slamming the brakes on progress.
You think Bush v. Gore or Citizens United were abominations? Go back and read the Dred Scott decision. Chief Justice Roger Taney makes John Roberts seem like Earl Warren.
I remember some smart people warning that liberals shouldn't simply worry about the new Roberts Court overturning Roe vs Wade, but rather should be very concerned about its pro-business tilt. That turns out to be an understatement. This court isn't just pro-business or anti-regulation. It's radically anti-consumer and anti-worker --- far worse than anyone anticipated, I think.
Dahlia Lithwick has written a typically interesting piece about the corporate friendly ruling this last term and what she finds is not just that the Court is favorable toward business but that it is writing a veritable instruction manual for firms to screw their workers and customers without any repercussions. It's fairly amazing:Depending on how you count "big cases," the Supreme Court has just finished off either great (according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) or spectacularly great (according to a new study by the Constitutional Accountability Center) term for big business. The measure of success here isn't just the win-loss record of the Chamber of Commerce, although that's certainly part of the story. Nor is it news that-in keeping with a recent trend-the court is systematically closing the courthouse doors to everyday litigants, though that's a tale that always bears retelling. The reason the Roberts Court has proven to be Christmas in July for big business is this: Slowly but surely, the Supreme Court is giving corporate America a handbook on how to engage in misconduct. In case after case, it seems big companies are being given the playbook on how to win even bigger the next time.
It's going to be very hard to put this particular genie back in the bottle. And it doesn't bode well for whatever reforms rational people may want to put in place in the near term. This court is proving to be extremely radical on these questions and it's unlikely they will uphold anything that limits the rights of the wealthy and the corporations.
Last week, former Senator Russ Feingold sent out this email:
The corrupting influence of special interests has infected most of our government, and we've seen the results: Wall Street ran wild, climate change is being ignored, and pay-to-play politics have started to dominate our Congress.
But there is one body that is supposed to rise above all of that: the Supreme Court. Granted, I have been critical about many of the Court's recent opinions -- and I'm troubled by how many of their recent rulings tip the scale in favor of wealthy interests. But much of America's trust in our system of government rests on the fundamental fairness of the highest court in the land. And we must make sure it lives up to that trust.
However, several recent stories about the conduct of our Supreme Court justices, including Justice Clarence Thomas, threaten that perception. Fortunately, Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT) has introduced a bill in the House that will institute ethics rules to oversee the conduct of Supreme Court justices and protect their integrity from doubt. It's great legislation, but someone needs to sponsor it in the Senate to give it a chance.
Urge your senator to step up and sponsor Rep. Murphy's Supreme Court ethics bill in the Senate.
Justice Thomas' close ties to wealthy donors and his wife's role in the Tea Party have caused serious concerns regarding his impartiality, but these stories are symptoms of a larger problem. We cannot allow even the slightest hint of undue influence from special interests or the appearance of corruption in the Supreme Court. We must act to protect the integrity of our judicial system.
I'm asking progressives like you all over the country to make these calls because I know they can have a significant impact. I was a senator for nearly two decades; we pay a lot of attention to what our constituents call in to tell us.