I love my city, but never more than at Christmas:
Oh, I’m sorry. There was a hiccup in the time-space continuum and suddenly I was back in 2007. E.J. Dionne:
A senior Obama lieutenant insisted that the president wasn’t attacking liberals. He was responding only to those condemning him as a “sellout” for a tax deal that achieves many progressive goals, at the cost of extending tax cuts for the wealthy and egregiously conceding billions to very rich people who inherit large estates.
Yet simultaneously, the White House also sent out signals that it was consciously casting the president as a centrist problem-solver in a new iteration of Bill Clinton’s old “triangulation” strategy.
This would suggest that Obama is perfectly happy to see liberals publicly furious, and happier still that some right-wing Republican politicians and groups, notably Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and the Club for Growth, came out against the tax deal, too. There’s nothing like occupying the lofty heights of moderation, especially where Washington conventional wisdom is concerned.
Wait, didn’t the bloggers who swooned at Obama’s feet promise me he would be the end of all this?
But in the long run, is Obama capable of winning the battles with the Republicans that this temporary agreement sets up? By expanding the deficit, it will make it easier for the Republicans to push sharp cuts in all manner of domestic programs, including Medicare and Social Security. This accord will not stop Republicans from expounding regularly on “the Obama deficit” or from trying to box him in again on the tax cuts.
One House Democrat, who because he respects Obama asked not to be named, offered an unexpected case for the package that tells the president how much ground he has to make up with those who were once his most fervent supporters.
“If I thought they were ready to go 12 rounds on this next year, I’d kill it in a heartbeat,” he said of the administration. “But if they’re going to keep leaving the ring after the first punch, this is the best alternative we’ve got to keep this recovery going and helping those who are hurting the most.” There was no sanctimony or purism here, just a sober and melancholy realism.
And in other news, Fox slants the news:
At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network’s journalists not to use the phrase “public option.”
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.
Journalists on the network’s flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon’s directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox’s Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox’s supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon’s “government option” email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right — in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.
For more fraud from Big Pharma (h/t Cos):
The Commonwealth Court has entered a more than $51 million bench verdict in favor of the Pennsylvania state government against pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson for allegedly overcharging state programs and consumers for prescription drug reimbursements.
On Dec. 7, Judge Robert Simpson filed a non-jury decision ordering the New Brunswick, N.J.-based drugmaker to reimburse the state government $45,283,562 and pay civil penalties in the amount of $6,567,000.
The total amount of the verdict was $51,850,562.
In his decision in Commonwealth v. Johnson & Johnson , Simpson also barred Johnson & Johnson from quoting either to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare or to state programs increased average wholesale prices (AWPs) for its drugs without also reporting current acquisition costs such as average manufacturers’ prices or average sales prices.
In addition, Simpson prohibited the company from promoting or marketing “spreads” — the difference between the price a prescriber pays for a drug and the price it is reimbursed for that drug — for any of its drugs that are reimbursed by state programs.
Neither the Obama administration nor the Democrats are doing an honest job of representing us. They’re about to railroad this plan through, blow up the deficit, and then they’ll rush in next year with an “austerity” plan — you know, the same Catfood Commission plan that couldn’t even get 18 panelists to back it.
Shades of the Shock Doctrine — we’re all Irish now!
While Vice President Biden and House Democrats met into the evening, White House budget director Jacob Lew and senior Treasury adviser Gene Sperling held an afternoon session to field questions from Senate Democrats, who were more accepting of the package than they were a day earlier in a meeting with Biden, participants said.
“Members are more open today as they read the analyses of this package,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat. Citing prominent liberals such as John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, and Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who endorsed the White House plan, Durbin said, “These are people that progressives respect and go to, and they’ve said positive things.”
Durbin added that “I just loathe” parts of the deal, such as the estate tax. But, he said, “I understand the predicament that we’re in.”
Biden faced a far tougher crowd in the House, where a fractious caucus dominated by angry liberals is emerging as the bigger legislative obstacle to the tax plan. During a two-hour meeting, dozens of lawmakers lined up to interrogate the vice president about the deal – almost all of them speaking in opposition, participants said.
“There remain very serious reservations on the House side. I think that there’s still a very serious question whether this package can pass in the form it’s in now,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said afterward. Van Hollen represented House Democrats in bipartisan talks about the tax cuts that were rendered moot when the White House began dealing directly with Republican leaders, a slight that rankled nearly as much as Obama’s decision to abandon the long-held Democratic position of opposing tax breaks for the wealthy.
Many Democrats, including Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House leader, emerged from the meeting saying they could not support the package unless major elements were changed, particularly the estate-tax provision.
Most Democrats would prefer to renew the tax, which lapsed last year, with a 45 percent rate on estates worth more than $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. The Obama-GOP deal would impose a 35 percent tax on estates larger that $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples for the next two years. If that change were made permanent, it would add $100 billion to deficits over the next decade, Democrats said.
In a forceful presentation, however, Biden made clear that big changes are not in the cards. “The vice president said, ‘This is the deal. Take it or leave it,’ ” an irritated Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said, paraphrasing the vice president.
[...] Meanwhile, the White House embarked on an aggressive campaign to advance the tax package, issuing a series of announcements touting Democratic endorsements of the legislation. The list included Detroit Major Dave Bing; Michael B. Coleman, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio; Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; Rep. Chet Edwards (Tex.) and Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).
In the Senate, lawmakers said they were warming to the package as they pored over the details of its provisions and reflected on the consequences of inaction: tax increases for virtually every American worker, beginning Jan. 1.
One of the first Democrats to sign on to the deal was Sen. James Webb (Va.), who is among 23 Senate Democrats facing reelection in 2012. “The proposal is the ultimate stimulus plan,” Webb said in a statement. “It will put more money directly into the pockets of people and small businesses, allowing that money to be quickly recycled as the economy expands.”
Lawmakers in both parties said they would seek to change the package through the amendment process. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said some conservatives are pushing a plan that would cover the cost of another year of jobless benefits – about $56 billion – by cutting spending elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a bloc of Democrats was circulating a proposal to add provisions that would trigger a broad deficit-reduction plan next year if the economy improved.
You know, I was just thinking that what we needed was the Catfood Commission! Great minds think alike, eh?
“There’s a legitimate case to be made for short-term stimulus,” said Sen. Mark Warner (Va.). “But if you don’t create a path to long-term deficit-reduction, you’re just borrowing $900 billion.” But he added that Congress must reach a compromise on the expiring tax cuts before adjourning for Christmas.
In the words of Emily Litella, “Never mind.”
Never mind that I thought the rest of the tax cut deal was worth swallowing, because that was when I still thought there were 13 months’ additional unemployment benefits in the picture. There aren’t.
According to Calculated Risk, this is the same kind of “bridge” legislation we’ve seen before, in which people who were eligible for the next level of extensions (but couldn’t get them because they expired) are now eligible to move on to the next extension level.
Which means this deal isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit, as my mother used to say.
Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post:
The programs provide up to 73 weeks of federally-funded benefits for workers who exhaust 26 weeks of state benefits. The average weekly benefit is about $300, and the total cost of a yearlong reauthorization is roughly $60 billion. Republicans and conservative Democrats ostensibly concerned about the deficit impact of the benefits have blocked several attempts to renew them in the past couple weeks, but they’ve signaled they will relent if the benefits are attached to the even-costlier tax cuts for the rich.
Some 800,000 laid off workers have already received cutoff notices, and another 1.2 million will stop receiving benefits by the end of the month unless Congress reauthorizes the recently-lapsed programs..
So those of you who are running out of benefits, please curl up in your cardboard box and die. We wouldn’t want to upset the bond market, would we?
It’s simply amazing that the White House is allowing the press (and the voters) to think otherwise. I mean, does Obama think they won’t notice when their checks are shut off?
This is the same trick they pulled back in March, when I lost my benefits. The 99ers weren’t able to rally the troops because the media (and the general public) thought Congress had already approved additional aid, when all they did was fund the existing extensions.
Yes, it preserves the existing benefits. Well, why the hell shouldn’t they? Obama expects applause for this? In the name of common decency, this shouldn’t even be an issue. And in exchange for this emergency support, basic humane aid, we’re supposed to give away the store so that millionaires and billionaires can make even more money?
All this money for war, for banks, for big business, and nothing for the people getting buried by the economic fallout.
Bah, humbug. Time to look for a primary challenger.
And call your congresscritters today and tell them to reject this.