The New York Times should be embarrassed. On December 24 it gave a Christmas present to the corporate-backed lobby group Fix the Debt with its front-page Business section puff piece about the organization, which is pushing to balance the federal budget by slashing social programs while cutting taxes for the rich.
The 1149-word piece, “One Woman’s War on Debt Gains Steam,” by reporter Annie Lowrey, is a fawning profile of the group’s public face, Maya MacGuineas. The article makes it appear that the Fix the Debt group was hatched last year at a dinner party at Senator Mark Warner’s house, when in fact it is simply the latest incarnation of Pete Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street financier who over many years has invested tens of millions of his money in his long-term crusade to reduce the federal debt on the backs of the poor and middle class, including the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget,
Speaker Boehner’s debacle in failing to get his own caucus to support his “Plan B” is not only his failure, it shows the complete disarray of the congressional Republican Party. They are simply incapable of a coherent response to a problem that calls upon them to go beyond campaign talking points.
This gives the President and Democrats in the House and Senate an opportunity to set fiscal cliff policy, in two stages. First, before the end of 2012, they should pass a bill in the Senate that would end the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 per year, as the President promised during the campaign. The bill should also extend unemployment coverage for the long-term unemployed, extend the debt limit for at least a year, and adjust the Alternative Minimum Tax to inflation. It should suspend (not cancel) the mandatory across-the-board spending cuts in the Fiscal Cliff law.
The 52-47 Democratic majority in the Senate is ample to pass the bill;
That’s what Americans care about—jobs with good wages.
And that’s part of why Obama and the Democrats were victorious on Election Day.
It seems forever ago, but it’s worth recalling that President Obama won re-election by more than four million votes, a million more than George W. Bush when he was re-elected—and an Electoral College majority of 332 to Romney’s 206, again larger than Bush’s electoral majority over Kerry in 2004 (286 to 251). The Democratic caucus in the Senate now has 55 members (up from 53), and Republicans have eight fewer seats in the House than before.
So why, exactly, is Washington back to obsessing about budget deficits? Why is almost all the news coming out of our nation’s capital about whether the Democrats or Republicans have the best plan to reduce the budget deficit?
I want to vote for a comprehensive bipartisan plan to address the fiscal cliff. I’m willing to take a tough vote. I’m willing to make sacrifices. I’m willing to feel the heat. But I’m not willing to solve the fiscal cliff by throwing seniors over the cliff. I draw the line at cutting benefits in Medicare and Social Security.
This week, House Republicans unveiled their fiscal cliff counterproposal. While they continue to call for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, they propose offsetting this cost by gutting Medicare benefits, including raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67. I won’t go there. As California’s Insurance Commissioner for eight years, I know this would be horrible policy, throwing millions of seniors into the rapacious hands of an insurance industry interested only in profits for its shareholders.
Medicare is a promise we made to seniors more than four decades ago.