The struggle is not over for the Healthcare Reform Bill. Republicans unveiled repeal legislation Monday night — two days before they officially take charge of the House. They plan a key procedural vote on Friday and a final vote the following Wednesday, according to House GOP sources.
Democrats say the GOP is pandering to their base. Well, if their voters elected them with the expectation that they would repeal the bill, then they should probably try to repeal it.
Passage of the health care overhaul is widely viewed as Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Most political analysts believe that while a repeal of the measure can pass the new Republican House, it has no chance of surviving the Democratic-controlled Senate or overcoming a presidential veto.
Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, cited projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office noting that the Democrats’ overhaul will lower the federal deficit over the long term.
As a result, she argued, a GOP-led health care reform repeal would “do very serious violence to the national debt” — undermining a central Republican pledge of fiscal responsibility.
The Republicans “will employ budget gimmicks” and “Enron-type accounting” to make the claim that a repeal of health care reform won’t increase the debt, predicted Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland. “That kind of flim-flam” is what people came to expect of Republicans the last time they ran Congress, he said.
Republicans insist that they are moving forward with their push to repeal the health care law because the measure is hampering an economic recovery.
“Obamacare is a job killer for businesses small and large, and the top priority for House Republicans is going to be to cut spending and grow the economy and jobs,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.
“Further, Obamacare failed to lower costs as the president promised that it would, and does not allow people to keep the care they currently have if they like it.”
President Barack Obama proposed a six-year plan to rebuild infrastructure with a $50 billion investment and prepared new business tax cuts.
“We are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — that’s enough to circle the world six times. … We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch coast-to-coast,” Obama told a labor rally in Milwaukee where several thousand supporters cheered his every line.
The infrastructure plan received immediate criticism from Republicans. Obama is under pressure to do more to create jobs and bring down the stubbornly high 9.6 percent unemployment rate, even as economists agree he has few good options left.
An administration official said Obama will propose on Wednesday in Cleveland that businesses be allowed to write off all their new investments in plant and equipment through 2011.
The plan would cut business taxes by some $200 billion over two years, the official said. The administration hope is that businesses worried about the sagging U.S. economy will nonetheless want to take advantage of the tax break by going ahead with plans for plant and equipment investments.
Obama will also announce on Wednesday a proposal for the U.S. Congress to increase and permanently extend a tax credit for business research and development. It would cost $100 billion over 10 years.
Economists are skeptical any measures Obama takes now will make a swift difference in the $13.2 trillion U.S. economy. They point out that investments in infrastructure, for example, typically do not stimulate the economy quickly.
While Obama declared some jobs would be created immediately by the infrastructure overhaul, a senior administration official told reporters the plan would not create jobs until 2011.
“This is not a stimulus, immediate-jobs plan,” the official said.
While the Obama administration was marked by expansive government over the past two years, Obama must now take conservative action.
The Obama administration is considering a range of new measures to boost economic growth, including tax cuts and a new nationwide infrastructure program, according to people familiar with the discussions. Conservatives have long supported tax cuts, as it is a direct way to stimulate the economy.
The president’s economic team has met frequently in recent days to list ways to bolster the struggling recovery, according to government officials.
On the list of possible actions: additional tax cuts for small businesses beyond those included in a $30 billion small-business lending bill before the Senate. It’s not clear what those tax breaks would target or how much they might cost in lost revenue to the government.
Also in the mix: a possible payroll tax cut for businesses and individuals, as well as other business tax breaks, according to people familiar with the discussions. Currently, income taxes are scheduled to rise with the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts at the end of this year.
Regardless of politics, the economy works in predictable ways. More spending from the public sector does little to bolster the economy, apparent with the failure of Obama’s stimulus plan.
Efforts to boost growth have taken on urgency as the economy has shown signs of flagging and is among voters’ chief concerns ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The White House is struggling with whether to propose ideas that would appeal to Republicans, and thus get support on Capitol Hill—such as tax cuts—or whether to promote ideas that officials believe could have more economic impact but might hit political resistance, such as more aid for states and more infrastructure funding.
The other day, I searched the Internet for a PDF file of the Finance Reform Bill that passed just this week. Thinking I would find a moderately sized document, I would print out a few pages and highlight some key concepts that people would be interested in.
The document was 1,336 pages long.
I will do my best to slog through it over the next week or two, so stay tuned to the Biz Blog to get your finance reform highlights.
The tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration are set to expire.
Party lines are clear on part of the issue: Most Republicans want to permanently extend all the tax cuts enacted during George W. Bush’s presidency, nearly $3 trillion worth over the next decade. Democratic leaders want to let the cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire.
The Democrats want to extend them for everyone else, but perhaps only temporarily, out of concern for the rising red ink. That’s where Democratic lawmakers are struggling to find agreement.
Passing only a temporary extension would open majority Democrats to claims they are planning middle class tax hikes in the future — after the extension expires. Making any of the tax cuts permanent could increase complaints about a national debt that already exceeds $13 trillion.
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke has come out to support the continuation of the tax cuts, saying it’s a means of stimulus for the economy.
On the other hand, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters Thursday she is adamantly against continuing the tax cuts, which expire at year’s end, for those making more than $250,000. “My stance is that the Bush-era tax cuts contributed to the deficit, did not create any jobs, and that they should be repealed,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat.
President Barack Obama is the first African American president of the United States. Some may think that shows how far the country has come since segregation.
However, it seems that racial tensions have increased since Barack Obama began running for president. During the campaign, when anyone opposed his policies, they were accused of being racist. That prejudice has continued. Tea Party members are accused of being racist. In some publicized occasions, the accusation has incited violence.
Many headlines have been popping up recently, but a big incident of racial friction happened last July. Sgt. James Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for disorderly conduct at his Cambridge home July 16 while investigating a possible burglary. Gates alleged he was a victim of racial profiling. Charges were later dropped. In the midst of this incident, Obama commented that the police sergeant “behaved stupidly”.
Everyone behaved stupidly. Both Crowley and Gates could have handled the situation with more aplomb. But worse, Obama made a judgement without knowing the facts. As the President of the United States, he shouldn’t have made any comment.
This summer, a Department of Justice dismissed voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party, prompting criticism from conservative groups who said the black president was unwilling to prosecute fellow blacks for civil rights violations. A Department of Justice worker said this had become DOJ policy.
Which brings us to Sherrod.
This week, Shirley Sherrod, a black official at the Agriculture Department, said her bosses pushed her to quit after conservative media repeatedly broadcast a tape that seemed to show her saying she had discriminated against a white farmer because of his race. Turns out Sherrod was talking about something that happened years ago and taught her a lesson about the race. But, only the racist statements were released to the media.
Many think Andrew Breitbart, who broke the story, was set up. Words like ‘racist’ and ‘conservative media’ are being thrown around.
Clearly, race is still an issue. America cannot claim to be a post-racial society as long as snap-judgements, misconceptions, and miscommunications determine policy.
Internal documents reviewed by Fortune, requested by Congress, show that many large companies are considering dumping health care coverage they provide in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.
If these companies (ie Verizon, AT&T, Deere, and others) do, in fact, follow this course of action, the projected cost of the bill will skyrocket. Part of the assumption of the bill was that American employers would continue with their current health care coverage.
The health care legislation eliminated a company’s right to deduce retiree drug-benefit from corporate taxes. This dug into projected revenue, most publicized by AT&T and Verizon.
Representative Henry Waxman accused companies of using the numbers to undermine health care reform and exaggerate the burden it put on employers. Waxman demanded every document the companies created that discussed what the bill would do to their expenses. He also wanted to hold hearings.
Enter 1,100 pages of documents from AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, and John Deere.
The Energy Committee read the documents and canceled the hearings.
As it turns out, the numbers were not an exaggeration. The Committee’s majority staff issued a memo. The write downs were “proper and in accordance with SEC rules.”
All four companies continue to assess the costs and benefits of dropping coverage. Under the bill, employees losing health coverage must purchase health care through state-run exchanges. These companies are seriously considering just paying the penalty rather than continue covering health care for employees.
Barack Obama has laid out a plan to begin drilling for oil off the shores of the United States. The White House announced that drilling would begin off the coast of Virginia. He will open up exploration along the east coast down into the Gulf of Mexico. Here is a map, courtesy of the New York Times.
Obama claims that this is a decision made to ease America’s energy concerns, but could this be a maneuver to appease the right? The McCain/Palin campaign ran with the chant “Drill, baby, drill”, which met opposition from the left. By fulfilling a campaign promise from the right, Obama has alienated some of his supporters.
Oil officials and Republicans say the president did not go far enough.
AT&T, John Deere and Caterpillar are among the companies reported to take a major financial hit from the health care bill. All three companies are recording balance-sheet charges as the price of providing healthcare for their employees increases. AT&T has said that it will cost the $1 billion against earnings.
This is possible through a change in tax treatment of Medicare subsidies. The expense is considered non-cash, but still goes against the profitability of the company. Companies expecting a hit from the healthcare bill are trying to get the information out quickly, so their stock holders know the impact of the bill. AT&T also said they would have to cut healthcare benefits to employees and retirees.