In an exclusive interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Barack Obama had this to say about Republicans who want to gut Medicare and replace it with health care "coupons" (vouchers), and cut Social Security before considering any Grand Bargain:
"Well– I understand. Which is why, at some point, I think I take myself out of this. Right now, what I’m trying to do is create an atmosphere where Democrats and Republicans can go ahead, get together, and try to get something done. And, y– you know– I think what’s important to recognize is that– we’ve already cut– $2.5– $2.7 trillion out of the deficit. If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already."
"And, so, we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next ten years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place. The question is, can we do it smarter, can we do it better? And– you know, what I’m saying to them is I am prepared to do some tough stuff. Neither side’s gonna get 100%. That’s what the American people are lookin’ for. That’s what’s gonna be good for jobs. That’s what’s gonna be good for growth."
"But ultimately, it may be that– the differences are just– too wide. It may be that ideologically, if their position is, “We can’t do any revenue,” or, “We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,” if that’s the position, then we’re probably not gonna be able to get a deal."
No debt crisis? But, the GOP has been screaming that the sky is falling ever since Obama took office. In fact, a recent poll by Bloomberg News asked Americans whether they believed the budget deficit was growing or shrinking, just six percent answered the question correctly. Ninety-four percent had no clue. And 62 percent actually thought it was getting bigger. So the next time you hear a poll about how Americans think it's important to shrink the budget deficit, remember that 94 percent of us don't even know that it's getting smaller.
When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country - and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.
But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.
In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.
In his weekly address, the president urged Congress to strike a compromise deal to avert $85 billion in automatic cuts.
What we've accomplished thus far:
"Over the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have come together and cut our deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties say we need to stabilize our debt."
"I believe we can finish the job the same way we’ve started it – with a balanced mix of more spending cuts and more tax reform. And the overwhelming majority of the American people agree – both Democrats and Republicans."
What's at risk if the House and the Senate fail to act on a budget that offers a balanced path going forward:
"But the budget process takes time. And right now, if Congress doesn’t act by March 1st, a series of harmful, automatic cuts to job-creating investments and defense spending – also known as the sequester – are scheduled to take effect. And the result could be a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole."
"If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off. Firefighters and food inspectors could also find themselves out of work – leaving our communities vulnerable. Programs like Head Start would be cut, and lifesaving research into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s could be scaled back. Small businesses could be prevented from getting the resources and support they need to keep their doors open. People with disabilities who are waiting for their benefits could be forced to wait even longer. All our economic progress could be put at risk."
"And then there’s the impact on our military readiness. Already, the threat of deep cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. As our military leaders have made clear, changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world. And we will be forced to make even more tough decisions in the weeks ahead if Congress fails to act."
Is there an option besides the sequester? Of course!
President Obama used his weekly address to call for a balanced approach to the federal budget. Citing a recent falloff in economic growth attributed to inaction in Washington, Obama called for investments in education and infrastructure and lowering the cost of programs like Medicare -- without passing the expense on to seniors -- as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit. He said that “2013 can be a year of solid growth, more jobs, and higher wages. But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington.”
"We all agree that it’s critical to cut unnecessary spending. But we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. It hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work today. It could slow down our recovery. It could weaken our economy. And it could cost us jobs – now, and in the future."
"What we need instead is a balanced approach; an approach that says let’s cut what we can’t afford but let’s make the investments we can’t afford to live without. Investments in education and infrastructure, research and development – the things that will help America compete for the best jobs and new industries."
"Already, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to reduce our deficits by $2.5 trillion. That’s a good start. But to get the rest of the way, we need a balanced set of reforms."
"For example, we need to lower the cost of health care in programs like Medicare that are the biggest drivers of our deficit, without just passing the burden off to seniors. And these reforms must go hand-in-hand with eliminating excess spending in our tax code, so that the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans."
"2013 can be a year of solid growth, more jobs, and higher wages. But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Everyone in Washington needs to focus not on politics but on what’s right for the country; on what’s right for you and your families. That’s how we’ll get our economy growing faster. That’s how we’ll strengthen our middle class. And that’s how we’ll build a country that rewards the effort and determination of every single American."
To the financial institutions of the world, we have only one thing to say: we owe you NOTHING!
To our friends, families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything.
To the people of the world, we say: join the resistance, you have nothing to lose but your debts.
On O13, in the larger context of the worlwide "globalnoise" mobilisation, and within the Global Week of Action against Debt, we will mobilise against debt in several cities of the world: Barcelona, Madrid, Mexico, Paris, New York, Rome…
The governments' response to the financial and economic crisis is the same everywhere: cuts in expenditure and austerity measures under the pretext of reducing deficits and the repayment of a public debt which is the direct outcome of decades of neoliberal policies. The same neoliberal policies that have plundered economic and natural resources and exploited human lifes in Latin America, Asia and Africa for decades, are now also being imposed on the people of Europe and North America.
Governments in the service of finance are using this pretext to further reduce social spending, lower wages and pensions, privatize public utility and goods, dismantle social benefits and deregulate labour laws, and increase taxes on the majority, while social and tax giveaways are generalized for the big companies and the highest income households, the rich, the 1%.
Mitt Romney has stated publicly that he likes being able to fire people. But Big Bird? Yes Big Bird was put on notice, as was the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS and the entire PBS network.
Debate moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS asked each candidate to describe the difference between his plan to attack the deficit and his opponent’s.
“I’m glad you raised that,” Romney said. “I think it’s frankly not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing that those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation. They’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives, and the amount of debt we’re adding -- at a trillion a year -- is simply not moral.”
Cutting the deficit, said Romney, can be done by cutting taxes, cutting spending and growing the economy. And finally, after being accused continually of failing to give specifics about things like which loopholes he would close in the tax code to offset the tax reductions he’d like to make, Romney spelled out some cuts he’d enforce. “Obamacare is on the list,” Romney said. “I apologize, Mr. President. I used that term with all respect.”
If Romney was trying to throw Obama onto the defensive, it didn’t work. “I like it,” the president interjected.
“OK, good. So I get rid of that.”
Then, looking at moderator Lehrer, Romney said, “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS…. I like PBS, I love Big Bird -- I actually like, you too -- but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for.”
Romney vowed to return the control of some federal government programs to states, though he didn’t specify which programs, and reduce the number of government agencies and departments, and the number of federal employees, though he hastened to add that would be through attrition.
And finally, he slapped at the president for promising to reduce the deficit and instead presiding over a massive increase.
“The president said he’d cut the deficit in half,” Romney said. “Unfortunately, he doubled it -- trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years. The president has put in place almost as much debt held by the public as all presidents combined.”
Whoa...Mitt Romney needs to spend a little more time with his budget reports. It seems that Romney not only likes to fire people, he seemed to really enjoy tossing out bogus "facts." The statement above on the deficit and public held debt? Romney’s claim is close to true, though he’s using a different debt measure than the one his party used at his nominating convention. On the day Obama took office, the total public debt was $10.6 trillion, according to the Treasury Department’s website. Today, it’s $16.2 trillion. That $5.6 trillion increase is a bit more than half of the debt incurred by the chief executives who preceded Obama in the White House. Looking only at the debt held by the public, the measure quoted by Romney, Obama has added about $5 trillion while the presidents who came before him ran up a $6.3 trillion tab.
Of course, a truly honest debate over the deficit and debt reduction can't be had without mention of the pattern of obstructionism on the part of the Republican congress, largely influenced by Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan:
Mr. Ryan’s enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan “grand bargain” that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation.
When President Obama pointed out that Ryan’s budget plan offers a “deeply pessimistic” vision for America that would cut crucial investments in the middle class and jeopardize health care for seniors, Ryan took the criticism personally and said it “definitely damage[d]” the chances that he’d accept a bipartisan grand bargain on debt reduction.
And back to Big Bird, someone in the Twitterverse responded to Romney's threat to terminate the beloved Sesame Street Character by creating a @FiredBigBird account, which, as of this writing had almost 23,000 followers.
Portland, Ore., resident Sam Chapman responded to the buzz by creating an indiegogo.com campaign to "Save Big Bird." All funds from the campaign go to PBS, according to the indiegogo site. "Let's show PBS some love," the webpage read.
President Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night with an appeal for another four years to continue with the platform of "change" he was elected on in 2008. "If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election," Obama said.
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties."
“It will be a choice between two different paths for America."
“A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
“But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.”
Obama presented a clear set of achievable goals on manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit – an achievable plan that will create jobs, expand opportunity, and ensure an economy built to last.
Obama's speech may not have been the "best" speech of the convention this week, but I think there is a message there for every one of us, and the message is that he has heard our voices. If you think he hasn't heard the cries of Occupy Wall Street, listen to this speech. Goals centered around jobs, education, college tuition, and energy. The message of "Hope" and "Change" are still there, but they've been tempered by four years of the reality of money and politics in Washington, just as all of our dreams have been.
The President himself has acknowledged that there is much more to be done, and has accepted the nomination again, and stands ready to help us face our challenges.
Personally, I'd rather not hand it all over to Mitt Romney in mid-struggle and wait to see what's left of our nation when he's finished with it.
A full transcript of Obama's speech follows below the fold.
Robert Reich breaks down the Romney-Ryan economic plan into 5 measures that all spell disaster for America.
1. More unemployment through austerity measures.
2. Taking from the poor to give to the rich. Higher federal taxes on lower income taxpayers, slashing medicaid, food stamps, and children's health care in order to give up to a $500k tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.
3. Turns Medicare into vouchers that won't keep up with the rising cost of health care and shifting the burden onto seniors, ending their guaranteed health care, and leaving them at the mercy of private insurers. By contrast, Obama's Affordable Care Act saves money on Medicare by reducing payments to providers such as hospitals and drug companies.
4. Add money to defense spending. The plan would add money to defense spending while cutting spending on education, infrastructure, and basic research and development.
5. Debt: The Romney-Ryan budget doesn't even reduce the federal budget deficit. While adding to military spending, giving tax cuts to the rich, and stifling economic growth by cutting spending too early, the plan would push public debt to over 175% by 2050.
No wonder Mitt Romney doesn't want to talk about his budget until after the election!
As Occupy Wall Street protestors continue to demonstrate across the country, congress’ fiscal super committee failed to craft a deficit reduction package due to Republican refusal to consider tax increases on the super wealthy. In fact, the only package that the GOP officially submitted to the committee included lowering the top tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, even as new research shows that the optimal top tax rate is closer to 70 percent.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who co-chaired the super committee, explained that the major sticking point during negotiations with the GOP was what to do with the Bush tax cuts. With that in mind, the National Priorities Project points out that those tax cuts this year will give the richest 1 percent of Americans a bigger tax cut than the other 99 percent will receive in average income.
She said that she would continue the panel's work after the Thanksgiving holiday break, adding that “I go home and still see people out of work,” she said. “I still see people struggling. I still see an economic imbalance and I still see that debt looming. ... We are going to keep working.”