Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) introduced a bill in December that would freeze federal hiring in order to delay military spending cuts required by sequestration. Last month, Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl introduced a similar bill that would scale back the federal work force and freeze federal worker pay to prevent further military spending cuts. Neither bill contained any plans to raise revenue for the federal government.
The National Journal reports that House Republicans will incorporate these ideas into their version of the budget, taking military spending cuts off the table:
House Republicans are planning to pull the defense-spending cuts mandated by sequestration off the table in their version of the budget expected to be released next week, according to two Hill aides. [...]
Republican defense leaders have protested that the military was taking the brunt of spending cuts. But by firewalling defense from further cuts, House Republicans would need to pay for those expected cuts another way. At a House Budget Committee hearing, Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Panetta he felt entitlement spending should be on the table.
?With regards to the Budget Control Act, an across-the-board $97 billion discretionary spending cut will be imposed on January 2, 2013, including devastating cuts to our national security,? Ryan said in statement provided to National Journal. ?House Republicans are continuing their efforts to reprioritize the savings called for under the Budget Control Act, because our troops and military families shouldn?t pay the price for Washington?s failure to take action.?
The National Journal said Republicans “declined to provide further details” of their budget, but it presumably won’t include raising taxes.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) earlier this month floated a decent idea for those wanting to preserve military spending: let the Bush tax cuts expire. ?The vote to extend the Bush tax cuts in their entirety would, in essence, be the vote to lock in sequestration,? Smith said.
But even if lawmakers can’t find offsets for sequestration — and despite the hyperbolic warnings from Republicans, the defense industry and even the current Secretary of Defense — the Pentagon can, as CAP’s Lawrence Korb recently noted in the New York Times, “easily absorb” the sequestration’s security spending cuts.
by Erica Flock
In July 2011, the Brisbane Times reported that Australia?s carbon price was dead in the water. Polling revealed that support for the legislation was low and that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had done a poor job explaining the bill. Down in the trenches, mud was flying: a politician compared a progressive activist organization supporting the carbon price, GetUp!, to the Hitler Youth League (GetUp!, by the way, is also the organization that produced this moving and wildly viral video in support of marriage equality last fall).
Despite ferocious opposition, the carbon price squeaked through the Australian parliament months later, sending a jolt of optimism through the global community. Like other climate bills, it ended up being pockmarked with holes gaping enough to drive an SUV through, but one of the largest per-capita carbon emitters in the world was clearly willing to throw its hat in the ring on climate action. The skeptics had been proven wrong.
Here in the U.S., activists perked up at news of Australia?s carbon price but overall seem hardened to federal policy after the American Clean Energy and Security Act failed to pass in 2010 (many environmentalists were opposed to the hulking and imperfect bill anyway, adding another layer of ambivalence). And don?t even mention the attitude in Congress. ?We?re busy enough fighting off attacks on the EPA? is the mantra Democratic Congressmembers and environmentalists alike are fond of repeating these days.
But like crocus bulbs shifting under the frozen ground, a movement has been building for federal climate policy. And the time is right: belief in climate change among the general public has just taken an upward turn, according to Brookings.
Partly due to the pressure applied by groups like Citizens Climate Lobby, politicians and other leaders are beginning to warm up the public on carbon pricing.
NASA Climate Scientist James Hansen has been promoting fee-and-dividend legislation for years, recently appearing on MSNBC with Treehugger?s Brian Merchant. Soon after, the Washington Post editorial page released a small flurry of pieces on carbon taxation. First, that famous tag-team, Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, along with former Republican House members Sherwood Boehlert and Wayne Gilchrest , endorsed a carbon price in an op-ed:
We could slash our debt by making power plants and oil refineries pay for the carbon emissions that endanger our health and environment. This policy would strengthen our economy, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, keep our skies clean ? and raise a lot of revenue.
Then the paper?s fickle editorial board endorsed Pete Stark?s existing carbon tax bill (H.R. 3242 ? the Save Our Climate Act) currently languishing in committee. Leadership on the issue from politicians, even from well-known liberals like Stark, is sorely needed. Especially when the public, for better or worse, forms opinions based on their statements.
The LA Times editorial page, too, has been drumming up support for a carbon tax. Their neighbor to the north, British Columbia, passed a carbon tax three years ago and the evidence of its success is a hopeful sign.
Just do it. Put a price on carbon, one way or another. How much is levied, and where and exactly how it’s levied, aren’t as important as the principle that we all pay something for emissions.
In Canada ? and in California ? it will take time, and trial and error, to get climate change regulations off the ground and working. It’s difficult, yes. Complicated too. But it’s not economic or political suicide.
One can?t deny some heavy lifting is in order, but with luck we can learn from our past missteps. The environmental community will need to better communicate its goals, think outside the insular lobbying strategies of yore, and truly work with groups across the political and interest spectrum from unions and environmental justice groups to business and religious leaders, and especially Republicans.
That last point may seem like a joke in the current political climate but behind the scenes, many Republicans do support a carbon tax. David Roberts of Grist has even gone as far as calling carbon pricing a fundamentally conservative policy. Case in point: Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney?s economic advisor Gregory Mankiw is a strong proponent of a carbon tax, and his observations about the resistance to the policy reflect Roberts? own:
In the debate over global climate change, there is a yawning gap that needs to be bridged. The gap is not between environmentalists and industrialists, or between Democrats and Republicans. It is between policy wonks and political consultants.
Among policy wonks like me, there is a broad consensus. The scientists tell us that world temperatures are rising because humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Basic economics tells us that when you tax something, you normally get less of it. So if we want to reduce global emissions of carbon, we need a global carbon tax. Q.E.D.
We?re encouraged by statements from conservatives like Mankiw, Boehlert and Gilchrest, but what?s really moving us these days is the growing army of committed citizen lobbyists around the country we?ve seen jump into the lion?s den. They?re inspiring us to rethink our rote pessimism, and the idea that the general public can?t be rallied around this issue.
Regular folks from Tallahassee, Florida to Kansas City, Missouri are spending evenings and weekends and taking time off work to visit their representatives and senators, write letters to their town newspapers and build support for climate legislation at the local level. And their work is sophisticated enough to rival the big guns. When Citizens Climate Lobby leaders in one of our local chapters visited the office of a powerful Republican in Congress to make the case for a carbon tax, they were told they were the most well-prepared citizen lobbying group the staffer had ever seen.Citizens Climate Lobby operates on the belief that politicians don?t create political will: they respond to it. It?s both an overwhelming and empowering idea. We?re appealing to the highest common denominator in people, motivating politicians to cast off their cowardice and soul-search on the legacy they?re leaving the planet with.
Erica Flock is a co-leader with the DC chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan volunteer group dedicated to helping people exercise their personal and political power for climate action.
As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) expressed callous indifference with a bill mandating that women receive an ultrasound before choosing to have abortion because they could just close their eyes. “I?m not making anybody watch, OK,” he explained. “Because you just have to close your eyes.”
Yesterday, a young woman confronted Corbett about his support for the bill. The governor reiterated his support for it by arguing that it’s not as bad as invasive transvaginal ultrasounds:
QUESTIONER: Excuse me, hi. Can you tell me why you supported the ultrasound bill?
CORBETT: It’s a position I took awhile ago. It’s just on the outside, it’s not invasive. That’s why.
The Pennsylvania Democrats posted the video:
While Corbett may back the bill because it does not include the words “transvaginal ultrasound,” the language of the bill still suggests that a woman could be required to undergo the invasive procedure if the embryo is too small.
The ultrasound bill is stalled after the Pennsylvania House delayed a vote earlier this week, and lawmakers are revoking their support because of tougher language inserted into the bill in committee. One Republican legislator said he was “offended” by the changes.
Greg Smith’s New York Times op-ed — in which he resigned from Goldman Sachs due to its “toxic and destructive” culture that’s focused on ripping off clients — has not prompted much in the way of soul-searching on Wall Street. Instead, Goldman and the nation’s other big banks have circled the wagons and smeared Smith, aided by the conservative financial press.
As we argued, Smith’s op-ed makes the case for the Volcker Rule, the regulation included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that limits the amount of money big banks can use making their own risky bets. The rule is meant to push such risky trading to firms that aren’t too-big-to-fail and backstopped by the federal government. And several Congressional Democrats agree with that assessment, according to Bloomberg News:
Lawmakers including Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the Democrats who authored the Volcker rule?s ban on proprietary trading and conflicts of interest in the Dodd-Frank Act said the piece strengthened the case for restrictions on Wall Street trading.
Congress can?t ?legislate the culture but I think the heart of this goes to why we needed the Merkley-Levin amendment,? Merkley, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview. [...]
Representative Barney Frank, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said the column serves as a rebuttal to bank arguments that restrictions in trading activities would result in increased costs for market participants such as pension and mutual funds.
??What he does is to reinforce the notion that much of the benefit from what they do goes to them and not to the broader society,?? Frank, who helped draft the law that bears his name, said in a telephone interview. ??It doesn?t make it criminal, but it does remove one of the arguments against the new restrictions.??
The Merkley-Levin amendment referenced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was an even stronger version of the Volcker Rule that never even received a vote during the Dodd-Frank debate. Not only was the Volcker rule watered down before Dodd-Frank was passed — thanks in large part to Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) — but the financial services industry has been trying to weaken it by hammering the regulators crafting its final version. But Smith’s op-ed shows how vital it is that banks engaging in this sort of activity not receive federal backing, so that they can’t go right back to business if their risky behavior causes them to fail.
House Republicans still can't get a
transportation bill approvedFor a brief moment it appeared that the passage of the two-year Senate transportation bill on a bipartisan vote Wednesday would finally spur the House to take action itself. If nothing else, it would put aside its own contentious five-year bill and take action on the Senate bill instead to meet the April 1 deadline. But nothing?not common-sense, not the Senate bill, not the deadline?has pushed enough representatives to agree.
Consequently, according to staffers, there will be no House vote on a new bill this month. Instead, the House will extend current spending for the ninth time since the 2005 transportation bill expired in 2009. No obstacles have appeared so far to an extension:
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) hasn?t decided how long the stopgap should be and aides predicted it wouldn?t have any problems passing the chamber, even though it would extend both programs and the current 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax.After another two-week vacation that begins March 30, the House will return to, presumably, take up where it left off on the transportation bill. About the only good thing that can be said about that five-year, $260 billion House proposal is that it hasn't passed. Because it stinks. It's 21 percent less than the 2005 bill when adjusted for inflation, and that's just the beginning of its many problems. It would weaken environmental reviews of road and other transportation projects, open up protected lands on- and off-shore to oil and gas production and use the royalty revenue for road and bridge building (even though that revenue would be a long time coming and seriously inadequate) and end dedicated funding for pedestrian and bike friendly projects, among other things.
The problem for Republicans is that Speaker John Boehner can't corral enough of them to support a bill that they think it isn't yet destructive enough. They want to spend even less money.
The Senate bill is imperfect, to be sure. But the worst of more than two dozen amendments?including authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to exploration and production of oil and gas, as well as undermining Clean Air Act regulation of mercury emissions?were eliminated. And a good one passed: spending most of the penalties paid by BP for its Gulf of Mexico blow-out on remediation in Gulf. The bill also extends the commuter benefit for mass transit riders and funds makes bike and pedestrian projects.
For now, however, a truly far-sighted transportation bill is just a pipedream:
Meanwhile, our major modes of transportation poison us, burn two-thirds of the oil we drill at home and import from abroad, make us less secure because of the geopolitics involved in maintaining access to much of that oil, gobble up a scarce resource essential for making other products, extract large hunks of household income and contribute a third of the CO2 we?re loading into the atmosphere.Someday, perhaps, Congress will wise up.
Rethinking transportation means rethinking zoning and other aspects of how we build our cities and develop the land in between. It demands a hard look at subsidies that promote particular modes of transportation to the exclusion of others and broadening the definition of what a subsidy is. Rethinking transportation requires rethinking the currently inadequate public revenue streams that pay for most of its infrastructure. And, obviously, it means extricating ourselves from dependence on fossil fuel, not just the imported stuff but what we take out of the ground within our own borders and from beneath the continental shelves.
Did I say something about Trudeau never pulling punches? This goes beyond that. This time, he has a roll of quarters in his fist.
A two-day motion hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, is scheduled to conclude today. Three motions involving discovery of evidence, depositions and particular details surrounding the case were[...]
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Cross postedfrom The Stars Hollow GazetteA Goldman Sachs executive resigned in a lengthly and scathing op-ed in the New York Times. Greg Smith worked at Goldman Sachs for 12 years, rising to executive director and head of the firm's United States equity[...]
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Rick Santorum has benefited from excellent timing. Unlike the other not-Romneys who ran for president this year, he had the good fortune of not catching the imagination of the Republican base until late in the primaries, after Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich had all had their brief moments as the alternative to the likely eventual nominee. By the time the voters got around to Santorum, there was just nobody else left, which has enabled him to have his moment in the sun at the end of the primaries, just where you'd want it to be if you're going to parlay your loss into a lucrative and influential career opportunity.
Today The Washington Post makes the case, without much in the way of evidence, that "Santorum has, after ten weeks of contests, all but claimed the title of leader of the conservative wing of the GOP." I don't buy it. First of all, conservatives in the GOP aren't a "wing." If anything, it's the establishment that's a "wing," in that it represents a small portion of the party that is capable of acting in a unified fashion. Conservatives are the rest of the party, and that's too complex a group to have a single leader. Second, there's no evidence that Santorum represents much more to them than "the guy we like better than Mitt Romney right now." Fast forward a few months: Mitt Romney is the nominee, and has picked someone else to be his running mate. Is Rick Santorum really going to be a powerful figure leading millions to act on his instructions? I doubt it.
After he got booted out of the Senate by Pennsylvania's voters, Santorum followed a fairly typical path for an ex-Senator, cobbling together an income of nearly a million dollars a year as a corporate "consultant," a "senior fellow" at a conservative think tank, and various media mini-gigs on places like Fox. Now that he's had this relatively successful campaign, what exactly will he do?
It isn't as though he'll be able to start some kind of movement that will translate the Santorum-worshipping masses into an organized political force. One might naturally assume that he'll use his power through media, but the opportunity there may be limited. Unlike Mike Huckabee, who got his own show on Fox after running for president and is about to launch a nationally-syndicated radio program, Santorum's future in media won't extend past "Fox News Contributor," where he can come on the air for five minutes at a time. Where Huckabee is smooth and friendly, Santorum is a dour scold, and the the number of people who will tune in to hear him whine about America's moral decline for an hour every day is small. Unlike Sarah Palin, he isn't a compellingly erratic personality who can sustain a reality show or two. Many conservatives like Rick Santorum, but he isn't going to be on the cover of People a year from now.
No, I think the best he can hope for is a somewhat amped-up version of what he was doing before: getting corporations to give him money for his sage advice, perhaps a well-paid sinecure at a conservative think tank, and coming on Fox to talk about how Barack Obama is a jerk. But the leader of conservatives in America? I doubt it.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $36 billion contribution toward the latest Greek bailout. Along with more than $170 billion from other European governments and institutions, the IMF loans will be doled out over the course of four years, hopefully allowing the country and the eurozone to regain their financial standing.
?The main function of this agreement is to contain the crisis for the next few months in order to provide a more stable environment for Italy and Spain to carry out their adjustments and therefore stabilize the euro area as a whole,? said Domenico Lombardi, a former IMF board official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the risks with this type of bailout are "exceptionally high," and that Greek politicians will likely need to make many difficult and unpopular decisions on the road to recovery. IMF rescue plans are also in the works for Ireland and Portugal.
The slow pace of foreclosure litigation has made it seem like there has been a lull in foreclosures lately. Not true?people are still having trouble paying their mortages, and now that banks and states have worked out settlements, expect numbers to rise again.
In anticipation of Saint Patrick's Day tomorrow, here's a funny read on James Joyce ordering a Shamrock Shake.