So I’m back in the People’s Republic of Mt. Airy, sitting in the waiting room of the massage therapist’s office. This young guy comes in for an acupuncture appointment, and I hear him tell the receptionist he teaches 9th grade biology.
When he sits down across from me, I ask: “Where do you teach?” He mentions an exclusive prep school. I forget exactly how the topic comes up, but he starts talking about how the Republicans are keeping Obama from accomplishing anything.
“Really?” I say. “It’s funny, isn’t it? When the Democrats control both houses, the Republicans control everything, and when the Republicans control one house, they control everything. Do you ever think about that?”
He looked at me like I was a crazy person. But I’m learning. The people who still have jobs, whose lives are not directly affected by this depression, those people still think Obama’s doing the best possible job he can.
So I did something I rarely do: I saved my breath.
As far as political personalities who hold no public office or have a job at a media association go, none seems to have skyrocketed to newfound popularity the way ’90s staple and Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist has during the debt crisis debate. With only thirteen Republicans refusing to sign his anti-tax pledge during this round of budget debate, former Sen. Alan Simpson told Lawrence O’Donnell tonight that it’s time to “peel all the layers of the onion” and figure out just why people seem to listen to intently to Norquist.
In an interview on The Last Word tonight, Simpson noted that Norquist had challenged Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on a $6 billion cut on ethanol subsidies he had called “tax increases,” which incensed Simpson greatly. “Grover and his happy band of warriors are trying to call that a tax increase– that’s a damn lie and he knows it,” he told O’Donnell. “And if he can get away with that, elect him President.”
Simpson continued to question Norquist’s power throughout the segment, arguing that “he can’t kill you, he can’t burn your house, he can defeat you in reelection,” and if a public servant thought the latter was enough to obey him, they didn’t deserve the spot. He also told O’Donnell several times that “if Grover Norquist is more powerful than the President of the United States and the Congress, he should run for President,” leaving open-ended the question of why he hadn’t pursued public office.
On that note, Simpson called for an investigation. “Grover Norquist should be examined into– where does he get his money?” In times where people amass so much power, he argues, it becomes necessary to “peel all the layers of the onion.” “Anytime anyone gets this powerful,” he argued, “you want to dig in… who is he slave to?”
He clarified that he did not mean “salacious stuff and his personal life,” but how Americans for Tax Reform operated and why so many people in Congress feared him, because based only on his status as leader of an anti-tax group, “you must be chicken if you fall for that crap.”
U.S. incomes plummeted again in 2009, with total income down 15.2 percent in real terms since 2007, new tax data showed on Wednesday.
That’s income, not net worth.
The data showed an alarming drop in the number of taxpayers reporting any earnings from a job — down by nearly 4.2 million from 2007 — meaning every 33rd household that had work in 2007 had no work in 2009.
Average income in 2009 fell to $54,283, down $3,516, or 6.1 percent in real terms compared with 2008, the first Internal Revenue Service analysis of 2009 tax returns showed. Compared with 2007, average income was down $8,588 or 13.7 percent.
Average income in 2009 was at its lowest level since 1997 when it was $54,265 in 2009 dollars, just $18 less than in 2009. The data come from annual Statistics of Income tables that were updated Wednesday.
The average tax rate was 11.4 percent, up from 10.5 percent in 2007, the Internal Revenue Service data showed.
No income tax was paid by 1,470 of the 235,413 taxpayers earning $1 million or more in 2009, compared with the 959 taxpayers with million-dollar-plus incomes who paid no income taxes in 2007.
Is it something in the Potomac water? Why are so many politicians so blind to the economic suffering of Americans, and so consumed with austerity fever? Dan Froomkin with an excellent piece:
For the weeks leading up to the agreement, Democratic and Republican leaders were essentially trying to out-austere each other. It’s that bipartisan enthusiasm for reducing the government’s budget — and the speed with which both parties abandoned a job-creating agenda — that left-leaning analysts say demonstrate how beholden elected officials from both parties have become to the rich, and how out of touch they are with the problems of the poor and the middle class.
“If these people were rational policymakers, they would not focus on deficit reduction right now,” said Neera Tanden, chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress. “They would focus on stimulus right now.”
“What’s crazy about Washington is that the only thing we talk about is deficit reduction; that nobody talks about jobs,” Tanden said. “It’s borderline insane.”
To liberal economists like University of Texas professor James Galbraith, the explanation lies in what he calls the Washington elite’s “deficit hysteria.”
From this perspective, the spending cuts signed into law Tuesday were the culmination of the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by moneyed interests into the development and inculcation of a specific Washington consensus that anyone who doesn’t believe the government is dangerously overextended — and who doesn’t consider the danger of deficits as very, very serious — is a wild-eyed radical.
“The rich have drawn a political box around what can be done here,” said Damon Silvers, policy director for the big umbrella union AFL-CIO. “They are gutting the modern state in order to avoid a real conversation about taxes.”
[...] Davig, the investment banker, said economic growth is not the most significant issue for Wall Street.
“Everyone can live with a little bit of fiscal drag if there’s a little bit more stable macro landscape,” he said. “They’re happy to live with a little bit of fiscal drag.”
And Galbraith said he thinks some of the super-rich out there, sitting on all that cash, are actually hoping for the economy to crash and burn.
“The strategy of pursuing a deflationary strategy is a strategy that greatly benefits people with cash,” said Galbraith. “If you’re interested in deflating asset values, and you have cash with which to buy assets when things hit rock bottom, then you have a powerful interest in a deep depression.”
“That’s certainly consistent with the banks holding 1.4 trillion [dollars] of reserves, which is absolutely unprecedented,” said Pollin, who backs a tax on excess reserves. “That’s 10 percent of GDP.”
Norquist said he has already been assured by “the right people” that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not choose anyone willing to give ground on raising taxes, and he is confident enough to leave town on Wednesday for August vacation.
Norquist said he would like Boehner to name House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).
He said he would be “fine” with leadership using the opportunity to give a conservative freshman the chance to shine, mentioning Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.).
Similarly, with respect to the Senate, Norquist can see McConnell appointing a young gun like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to the panel to give him a bigger platform. He said he would like to see Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) appointed.
Norquist does not want to see former Gang of Six Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) or Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on board because they made “troubling” statements in support of revenue increases during the deficit negotiations this spring. He said that if Gang of Six Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) made stronger commitments to oppose taxes, he could be OK with that appointment.
The little tin god who spends his life in the closet… all hail Caesar!
From Ben Smith, who confirmed it from two sources, we learn that at last night’s “Common Purpose” meeting, a regular (supposed to be secret) get together between the White House and progressive advocacy groups (where the White House routinely yells at them, I hear), the groups got an earful about the President’s new deficit deal he reached with Republican Speaker John Boehner:
Yesterday, [White House National Economic Council Director Gene] Sperling faced a series of questions about the White House’s concessions on the debt ceiling fight, and its inability to move in the directions of new taxes or revenues. Progressive consultant Mike Lux, the sources said, summed up the liberal concern, producing what a participant described as an “extremely defensive” response from Sperling.
Sperling, a person involved said, pointed his finger backed at liberal groups, which he said hadn’t done enough to highlight what he saw as the positive side of the debt package — a message that didn’t go over well with participants.
That sounds oddly familiar. In fact, it’s the same admonishment a group of liberal bloggers received from then- vice presidential economic adviser Jared Bernstein on the one-year anniversary of the stimulus. I attended that meeting and wrote at the time, back in February of 2010:
I guess what struck me as most interesting about the meeting were two things. First, when Bernstein noted that, in trying to solve the country’s economic problems, the administration faces “budget constraints and political constraints.” By that, I took Bernstein to mean that the stimulus could only be so large last time, and we can only spend so much more money this time, because we’re facing a huge deficit, so there’s not much money to spend, and because the Hill and public opinion won’t let us spend more.
That struck me as GOP talking points winning the day, and I said so (Professor Kyle wrote about this very notion the other day on the blog). The only reason we’re facing a budget constraint is because we gave in on the political constraint. We permitted Republicans to spin the first stimulus as an abysmal failure, when in fact it created or saved up to 2m jobs. Since Democrats didn’t adequately defend the stimulus, and didn’t sufficiently paint the deficit as the Republicans’ doing, we now are not “politically” permitted to have a larger stimulus because the fiscal constraint has become more important than economic recovery.
And whose fault is that?
Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven’t done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.
[...] In any case, this isn’t a coincidence. They actually believe, inside the White House, that we’re to blame for their problems. That they’re doing a chipper job and the public would know it, but for the Netroots and the liberal advocacy groups doing such a lousy job selling the President’s magnificent handiwork.