War Spending: Defying or Just Posturing?

gop-spin-club Defying President Bush, House Democrats are preparing to forge ahead with a war spending measure that would include extended unemployment assistance and new educational benefits for returning veterans.

After a meeting Monday evening of House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to bring a $178 billion measure to the floor this week. What could be a contentious debate on the matter is likely to be held on Thursday, aides said.

Ms. Pelosi, of California, did not disclose details of the proposed bill, which will be presented to rank-and-file Democrats at a closed party session on Tuesday. But Democratic officials, who did not want to be identified since the bill was still being put into final form, said the legislative package would include provisions requiring a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq by December 2009 and measures that would force Iraq to share more costs of its reconstruction.

Democrats also intend to make veterans eligible for new educational assistance if they have served from three months to three years or more on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The aid would be equivalent to a four-year scholarship at a public university for those with three years or more service, with payments prorated for those with less time.

Mr. Bush has steadily insisted he would not approve any legislation that exceeds his spending request for the war, sets any withdrawal deadlines or adds domestic money he opposes like the unemployment benefits. And House Republicans, angry that the measure is not going through formal committee consideration, began on Monday to open procedural attacks on the House floor in protest, forcing extra votes on noncontroversial measures.

“The Democrat leaders of the House and Senate are attempting to jam a 200-plus-billion-dollar spending bill through the Congress with absolutely no oversight or scrutiny by a vast majority of members, senators or their constituents,” Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Monday. “Never in my 30 years in Congress has there been such an abuse of the processes and rules of the House.”

Democrats said privately that they expected the provisions setting a withdrawal deadline and putting other conditions on the war money to be eliminated by the Senate before a final House vote later this spring… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Impeach Of course there is no way this bill can ever get through the automatic GOP filibuster in the Senate.  Nevertheless it’s still a good idea, because it gives GOP Senators a choice to actually do something for America or come down solidly against the unemployed and veterans in the height of election season.

Representative Jerry Lewis needs help for his comedy routine from his side-kick, Dean Martin.  Throughout the GOP dominated 109th, no bill made it to committee without having first been approved by a majority of the House Repuglicans.

Think how much better it would have been if the Democratic majority in the House had wasted time with impeachment hearings instead of with posturing!

GOP Would Kill Planet to Protect Big Oil Profits

bigoil2 Listen to almost any politician, President Bush included, and you’ll hear that the fight against global warming cannot be won without cleaner technologies that will ease dependence on fossil fuels. Yet these same politicians are on the verge of allowing modest but vital tax credits to expire that are crucial to the future of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

These credits are necessary to attract new investment in renewable sources until they become competitive with cheaper, dirtier fuels like coal. When the credits disappear, investments shrivel. The production tax credit for wind energy has been allowed to expire three times. In each case, new investment dropped by more than 70 percent. The credits for wind and solar expire at the end of this year, so action now is important.

Though there is plenty of blame to go around, Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans bear a heavy burden. The House approved, as part of last year’s energy bill, a multiyear extension of the credits, while insisting — under its pay-as-you-go rules — that they be offset by rescinding an equivalent amount in tax credits for the oil companies. The oil companies (though rolling in profits) screamed, Mr. Bush lofted veto threats, and the Senate, by a one-vote margin, refused to go along.

Senator John McCain — who is far ahead of his party on climate change — missed that crucial vote. He could be a hero if he now rode in off the campaign trail and corralled the Republican votes needed to extend the tax credits; his vote alone might be enough.

The Senate is still trying — but not hard enough. Three weeks ago, it approved a bipartisan measure that would authorize a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind and a multiyear extension of the investment tax credit for solar power.

With other bells and whistles, it would cost $6 billion. The bill still does not rescind any oil company tax credits, so it does not meet the House’s legitimate demand for offsets. Like the House, we believe strongly that Congress must pay as it goes.

So the burden remains with the Senate. And the choice for the senators, in particular the Republicans, is simply this: They can extract a few billion dollars from the ridiculously rich oil companies (Exxon alone made more than $40 billion last year), or they must explain to the American people why protecting the oil companies is more important than protecting the planet. [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

We can always count on the GOP to filibuster any measure that favors the interests of the American people over those of greedy corporations.  The Times did a good job with this, except for one thing.  Their claim that McConJob is far ahead of the rest of his party on this issue just does not hold water.

mccain2 …But since he started running for president last year, McCain has largely downplayed climate change. He hasn’t declared support for a tougher and more detailed bill, proposed by Senators John Warner and McCain ally Joe Lieberman. And his top domestic policy recently suggested that McCain might not even stand by his own weaker bill, telling a reporter: “He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”

Most important, McCain has not made global warming a rhetorical priority. Since he began his White House run, he hasn’t given a single speech that we’re aware of devoted to the issue, or released an ad that mentions it in any detail. In general, McCain has based his pitch to voters, both before and after clinching the GOP nomination, on his personal biography, his national-security experience (particularly his support for the troop surge in Iraq), and his straight-talking persona. No fair assessment could conclude that global warming, or any other environmental issue, has been “central” to McCain’s campaign… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <CJR>

Were the environment a concern, he would have returned to Washington to vote on that bill.  On the environment, as on virtually every other issue, except 100 years of war, more wars, and bomb bomb Iran, McFlipFlop is squarely positioned on both sides of the issue, attempting to cover-up that he is McSame as Bush.

Keith on Bushonomics

Yesterday morning Potomac Pinocchio gave a news conference in which he blamed all the nation’s ills on the Democrats in Congress.  Last night on Countdown, Keith Olbermann served fried ChickenHawk.

Krugman: Bush Made Permanent

As the designated political heir of a deeply unpopular president — according to Gallup, President Bush has the highest disapproval rating recorded in 70 years of polling — John McCain should have little hope of winning in November. In fact, however, current polls show him roughly tied with either Democrat.

In part this may reflect the Democrats’ problems. For the most part, however, it probably reflects the perception, eagerly propagated by Mr. McCain’s many admirers in the news media, that he’s very different from Mr. Bush — a responsible guy, a straight talker.

But is this perception at all true? During the 2000 campaign people said much the same thing about Mr. Bush; those of us who looked hard at his policy proposals, especially on taxes, saw the shape of things to come.

And a look at what Mr. McCain says about taxes shows the same combination of irresponsibility and double-talk that, back in 2000, foreshadowed the character of the Bush administration.

The McCain tax plan contains three main elements.

First, Mr. McCain proposes making almost all of the Bush tax cuts, which are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, permanent. (He proposes reinstating the inheritance tax, albeit at a very low rate.)

Second, he wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which was originally created to prevent the wealthy from exploiting tax loopholes, but has begun to hit the upper middle class.

Third, he wants to sharply reduce tax rates on corporate profits.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the overall effect of the McCain tax plan would be to reduce federal revenue by more than $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of revenue loss — enough to pose big problems for the government’s solvency.

But before I get to that, let’s look at what I found truly revealing: the McCain campaign’s response to the Tax Policy Center’s assessment. The response, written by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, criticizes the center for adopting “unrealistic Congressional budgeting conventions.” What’s that about?

Well, Congress “scores” tax legislation by comparing estimates of the revenue that would be collected if the legislation passed with estimates of the revenue that would be collected under current law. In this case that means comparing the McCain plan with what would happen if the Bush tax cuts expired on schedule.

Mr. Holtz-Eakin wants the McCain plan compared, instead, with “current policy” — which he says means maintaining tax rates at today’s levels.

But here’s the thing: the reason the Bush tax cuts are set to expire is that the Bush administration engaged in a game of deception. It put an expiration date on the tax cuts, which it never intended to honor, as a way to hide those tax cuts’ true cost.

The McCain campaign wants us to accept the success of that deception as a fact of life. Mr. Holtz-Eakin is saying, in effect, “We’re not engaged in any new irresponsibility — we’re just perpetuating the Bush administration’s irresponsibility. That doesn’t count.”

It’s the sort of fiscal double-talk that has been a Bush administration hallmark. In any case, it offers no answer to the principal point raised by the Tax Policy Center analysis, which has nothing to do with scoring: the McCain tax plan would leave the federal government with far too little revenue to cover its expenses, leading to huge budget deficits unless there were deep cuts in spending.

And Mr. McCain has said nothing realistic about how he would close the giant budget gap his tax cuts would produce — a gap so large that eliminating it would require cutting Social Security benefits by three-quarters, eliminating Medicare, or something equivalently drastic. Talking, as Mr. Holtz-Eakin does, about fighting waste and reforming procurement doesn’t cut it.

Now, Mr. McCain isn’t unique in making promises he has no way to pay for — the same can be said, to some extent, of the Democratic candidates. But Mr. McCain’s plan is far more irresponsible than anything the Democrats are proposing, and the difference in degree is so large as to be a difference in kind. Mr. McCain’s budget talk simply doesn’t make sense.

So what are Mr. McCain’s real intentions?

If truth be told, the McCain tax plan doesn’t seem to embody any coherent policy agenda. Instead, it looks like a giant exercise in pandering — an attempt to mollify the G.O.P.’s right wing, and never mind if it makes any sense… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

The only responsible way to proceed on Bush tax cuts is to eliminate them for Americans making over $200,000.  That will recover 90% of the revenue.  The only responsible way to proceed on the AMT is to raise the income level at which it kicks in, index it for inflation, and raise the alternate rate for the richest of the rich to recover the lost revenue.  The only responsible way to proceed with corporate taxes is to close the myriad of tax loopholes that allow these multi-national giants to avoid paying their fair share and to end subsidies, unless those subsidies directly benefit the poor and middle classes.

Four years of McConJob would spell economic disaster for the US.  Let the graphic be your guide.  McConJob is McSame as Bush!

Going Up?

28steel Steel prices have almost doubled in the past year as steelmakers have passed big increases in the costs of iron ore and coking coal on to consumers.

The jump threatens to create fresh problems for manufacturers and stoke inflationary pressures in emerging markets where demand is high, driven by urbanisation in China and infrastructure spending in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia.

It comes as the London Metal Exchange starts trading steel futures on its floor today after trials on its Select electronic system. The launch could help drive trading volumes far higher.

Prices for steel billet, used to make reinforcing rods in construction and a benchmark for the industry, have surged this month to $900 a tonne, almost double in the past year.

Michael Shillaker, steel analyst at Credit Suisse, said: “Steel demand is booming across emerging markets due to growing infrastructure requirements.

“There is a shortage of upstream steel capacity which, combined with higher raw materials costs, should ensure that demand and prices remain high for several years.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <FT>

Once upon a time, the US was the steel capitol of the world providing low cost, high quality product for the world.  Thanks to free trade, rather than fair trade, policies of the last 20 years, I question whether we have the production capacity to rebuild our own infrastructure.  Steel is not the only thing going up.

bigoil2 Oil prices hit an all-time high near US$120 a barrel Monday after a weekend refinery strike closed a pipeline system that delivers a third of Britain’s North Sea oil to refineries in the U.K.

The shutdown comes amid other supply outages in Nigeria that have helped to support oil against a strengthening dollar.

“We’ve got a confluence of a number of events that have really disrupted crude oil supply,” said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. “That’s what’s driving oil to a new record even though the U.S. dollar actually strengthened a bit.”

Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose to a record US$119.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract eased back to US$119.40 a barrel by midday in Singapore, up 88 cents from Friday’s close of US$118.52… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <IHT>

When Texas Torquemada took stole office in 2001 the price of oil was $31 a barrel.  That’s an increase of 387%.  I bet the Crawford Cronies are celebrating this news.  McConJob wants more tax breaks for the oil companies.

McCain Begins to Crumble

Picking on McConJob is great sport, and nobody does it better than Keith Olbermann.  Here he teams up with Eugene Robinson.

McCain Loves Lobbyists, Disses Oregon Voters

mccain4 Senator John McCain has staked his campaign for the presidency in large part on his reputation as a reformer intent on curbing the influence of money in politics.

But an examination by The New York Times of a list of 106 elite fund-raisers who have brought in more than $100,000 each for Mr. McCain found that about a sixth of them were lobbyists. The list of “bundlers” was released on Friday by the McCain campaign.

The sizable number of lobbyists, who are outnumbered on the list only by those working in the financial services industry, offers another example of the balancing act that Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is having to strike as he campaigns for the presidency and seeks to maintain his reputation as a reformer… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

So the second biggest block of fundraisers McConJob has are lobbyists, the very people he pretends to oppose.  And the biggest block is financial services.  Interpret that as the same group of multi-millionaires who scammed America, only to be bailed out by the Bush/GOP Reich, a move McMillionaire vociferously supports, but opposes help for home opwners, because Supply-side Jesus (the GOP invention, not to be confused with the real one) forbids that an undeserving borrower slip in.

Next, McConJob does not give a damn about my state.

mccain_bush_hug For the first time in modern Oregon politics, a major presidential campaign has missed the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet deadline. John McCain’s campaign will not be included in the Oregon Voters’ Guide for our May 20 primary.

At a mere $1000 dollars, the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet is one of the most cost-effective voter contact tools available anywhere. Which is why contested and uncontested primary campaigns alike fail to participate at their peril… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Blue Oregon>

Leave it to McConJob to show such total disrespect for Oregon voters, and by implication, voters everywhere.