President Obama tells the American people about his speech at Knox College on Wednesday, where he discussed the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class, including having a good job, a home that is your own, quality education, a secure retirement, and affordable health care.
Declaring “the time for excuses is over,” President Barack Obama is trumpeting the economic benefits of an immigration overhaul, arguing that a bipartisan bill picking up steam in the Senate would put the nation’s loathed deficits and fragile entitlements on better footing.
A recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers’ nonpartisan scorekeeper, was Exhibit A in Obama’s weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. The report shows deficits would fall nearly $1 trillion over two decades after the bill becomes law.
What’s more, Obama said, the influx of immigrant-driven investment, technology and businesses would give the economy a 5% shot in the arm.
“This bipartisan, common-sense bill will help the middle class grow our economy and shrink our deficits, by making sure that every worker in America plays by the same set of rules and pays taxes like everyone else,” he said.
Confidence that the overhaul could pass the Senate by impressive margins is growing, and leaders scheduled a test vote on the bill for Monday, with a final vote expected by the end of next week. Although the heart of the bill is a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions living in the United States illegally, it was a military-style surge to U.S.-Mexican border security, added this week to placate wary Republicans, that was credited for giving the bill a much-needed boost.
Remember, SS doesn’t contribute a dime to the deficit. There is no reason to include this in the budget except to sneak in tax increases on the middle class via the Chained CPI. Let’s be clear: this is deficit reduction on the backs of middle class workers, the elderly, the disabled and Veterans.Oh, and by the way, cutting vital programs in exchange for increasing taxes on the middle class and getting some temporary chump change from millionaires as a cover is not a balanced approach.
And for those Democrats like me who backed the health care reform because of the Medicaid expansion, well we really are a bunch of suckers. I assumed the president would protect that legacy above all others. But if he’s looking to cut Medicaid now, I guess we can assume that the only part of that legacy he cares about is the one that benefits the private insurers.
Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.
This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.
It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.
For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can’t get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy.
In reality, average working people have been stymied because almost all the economic gains of the last three decades have gone to the very top. The middle has lost bargaining power as unions have shriveled. American politics has been flooded with campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy, which have used their clout to reduce marginal tax rates, widen loopholes, loosen regulations, gain subsidies, and obtain government bailouts when their bets turn sour.
The Republicans, now led from behind by House Speaker John Boehner, are painting themselves into a tiny corner. Boehner may have secured his job as speaker but he has categorically rejected any hope of a grand bargain, thereby leading his party in a rejection of America’s middle class. Unless he can be persuaded by Republican senators and a few dozen of his House colleagues to accept a balanced deal with the president and the Democrats he will severely harm his party by appealing only to the Tea Party.
Leaving the White House after the meeting with the president, Speaker Boehner dug in his heels against the closing of any tax loopholes or raising any revenue. Hasn’t he learned anything since the election?
Look at what has happened to the Republicans. Democrats have a 22 point advantage (according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) on who would look out for the middle class, the largest margin in 20 years. The same poll found that 36 percent of the public viewed the Republicans favorably in October of 2012, only 29 percent view them favorably today—a remarkable drop in just four months.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) — a possible Republican candidate for president in 2016 — rejected former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s argument that conservatives must embrace marriage equality for gays and lesbians if they want to survive as a party and reiterated his support for “traditional marriage.”
“Look, I believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” Jindal said during an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, and went on to claim that Republicans don’t have to make the case on social issues to attract young voters and win future elections and instead should continue focusing on economic issues. “We lost [the 2012 election] because we didn’t present a vision showing how we believe the entire economy can grow, how people can join the middle class. We’re in aspirational party and we need policies that are consistant with that aspirational private sector growth.”
In an essay for The American Conservative entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” Huntsman — a Mormon whose previous support for civil unions set him apart from Republican presidential candidates in 2012 — argued that if the Republican Party wants to survive, it must enhance its appeal to gay Americans and the growing majority that supports marriage equality.
President Obama will sit for interviews with eight local reporters on Wednesday, as he continues to ratchet up his pressure on lawmakers to take action to prevent automatic spending cuts from taking effect on March 1.
“The president will take the case directly to the American people in markets across the country about how their leaders in Congress must act to protect our nation from a self-inflicted wound that would hurt our recovery and the middle class,” the White House said in a statement.
Picking up where he left off Tuesday with a brief speech delivered with first responders joining him on stage, Obama “will make clear that the only reason that these devastating cuts would hit is if congressional Republicans choose to protect loopholes that benefit the wealthy and big corporations rather than compromise to reduce the deficit in balanced way and protect American families.”
The White House sees the interviews as an effective way to reach people across the country who don’t pay much attention to national news but who do keep up with what’s happening in their hometowns. It’s a strategy the White House used throughout the presidential campaign and also employed in December as Obama rallied Americans to support him and to push Republicans to act as the fiscal cliff loomed.
More: Obama to Sit for 8 Local Interviews on Sequester
Here is the meat from his speech yesterday:
The President and Senior Administration Officials met this morning with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss the need to make things fairer for and grow the middle class by fixing our broken immigration system so everyone plays by the same rules. The President thanked the Members for their long standing leadership on the issue, and reiterated that this is a top legislative priority.
The President was pleased to hear from CHC members and noted that they share the same vision, including that any legislation must include a path to earned citizenship. The President further noted that there is no excuse for stalling or delay. The President made it clear he will continue to lead on this issue, and that he looks forward to working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other key Members of Congress in a bipartisan process to move this debate forward at the earliest possible opportunity.
The President will be traveling to Nevada on Tuesday to redouble the Administration’s efforts to work with Congress to fix the broken immigration system this year.
‘Collective bargaining is all that keeps large numbes rof Americans at least clingingly in the middle class’
It seems that no matter what I do, I can’t beat my colleague here at TAI, Walter Russell Mead, into print on any significant news story. Walter does it fast and, almost invariably, does it very well. He did it again yesterday, early in the day too, on the news that the Michigan state legislature had passed two so-called right-to-work laws.
Like Walter, my sense is that this is a big deal—a turning point in our national odyssey. Like Walter, too, I see the basic facts in the same way. But unlike Walter, my sensibilities about this are bit different, possibly owing to the fact that he is the son of an Episcopalian clergyman, and I am the son of a rare Jewish member of the Teamsters union. Walter does say that, “Labor needs representation and many of the values that drew millions of working Americans into the labor movement endure.” I would go a bit further than that: Collective bargaining is all that keeps large numbers of Americans at least clingingly in the middle class at a time when globalization and automation are undermining a hard-achieved, broadly egalitarian U.S. social structure. What Republicans in Michigan have done is to attack the viability of collective bargaining. If companies can hire as many non-union laborers as they like, it is obvious that union bargaining power will essentially collapse.
Were that to happen, and were it to spread from Michigan to the rest of the nation, it might help some American businesses to keep their costs down and so better compete worldwide. That, arguably, might produce more jobs—if not necessarily more decently paying jobs. But at the same time, whether that happens or not, it will certainly produce more inequality and the social frictions that ultimately go with it, exacerbating a trend at least a quarter-century now in the making.
When I read the news from Lansing, I immediately began to think of another key turning point in the history of the American labor movement. Since few Americans today know much about that history, let me tell you a little something about it. No doubt you will see many parallels with current circumstances even before I have the opportunity to point them out.