This post first appeared on Think Progress. Over the weekend, the Washington Post provided some more details about the ongoing foreclosure fraud scandal, noting that “virtually everyone involved – loan servicers, law firms, document processing companies and others – made more money as they evicted more borrowers from their homes, creating a system that was vulnerable to error and difficult for homeowners to challenge.” A bevy of Democratic lawmakers have called for examinations of the banks’ potentially fraudulent activities, while the Attorneys General of all fifty states have pledged a coordinated investigation. Republicans, however, have been largely silent on the issue. And according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is slated to take over the House Committee on Government and Oversight should the Republicans gain a majority, the GOP is not really interested in the banks’ malpractice. Instead, Issa wants to “launch aggressive inquiries” into whether the government helped poor people buy houses they couldn’t afford:
The conservative Republican from California, who would become chairman of the powerful House oversight and government reform committee, said hearings would focus on whether the federal government should be involved at all in sponsoring home loans for the poor.
Such hearings would evidently “centre on the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” which Republicans have blamed for the financial collapse of 2008, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As the Wonk Room explains, Issa’s pronouncement is part of an ongoing conservative effort to scapegoat homeowners and government for Wall Street’s malfeasance. While the GOP likes to blame homeowners for the country’s economic woes, in the last decade, as the Center for American Progress has documented, banks were still systematically charging minorities higher costs for loans and pushing them into expensive subprime mortgages, making government policies to ensure fair access to credit a necessary step. It says a lot about the Republican mindset that banks evicting homeowners who aren’t in foreclosure doesn’t merit an investigation, but a low-income family receiving a mortgage in a traditionally under-served community does.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Now that disgraced former health care executive Rick Scott has officially won his Republican gubernatorial primary in Florida, he is turning his attention to his general election campaign against the Democratic nominee, Florida CFO Alex Sink. And part of that campaign is evidently leaving no doubt as to where he stands regarding the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year — Scott very clearly wants them all extended, even for the richest two percent of Americans, per his campaign spokesperson:
Floridians want an answer: Will Alex Sink stand with Obama and let the Bush tax cuts expire, thereby increasing Floridians’ taxes, or will she stand with taxpayers and demand Obama work to extend the Bush tax cuts?
Scott has also touted his opposition to the Bush tax cuts on both national and local television. Watch it: Of course, as governor, Scott wouldn’t have any say over whether or not the Bush tax cuts get extended. He could certainly advise Florida’s congressional delegation, but at the end of the day, federal tax policy is not within the purview of the nation’s governors. As The Wonk Room points out, Florida has one of the country’s most regressive state tax systems, and Scott’s economic plan would only make it worse.
Update Last week, Igor Volsky highlighted some questions that the media should be asking Rick Scott. Read them here.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Since he was on the campaign trail, President Obama has proposed renewing the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for the lower- and middle-class, while allowing them to expire on schedule at the end of the year for the richest two percent of Americans. Republicans, however, have begun to obfuscate the issue by saying that the end of the year will bring history’s largest tax increase, deliberately leaving out that Democrats have proposed extending most of the cuts. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) pulled this rhetorical trick last week, saying “Democrats are poised to allow the largest tax increase in American history to take effect,” and on Fox News Sunday today former half-term governor Sarah Palin went down the same road. Fox’s Chris Wallace rightly pointed out that “the Republicans keep talking about being deficit hawks. This is $678 billion you are not going to pay for.” Palin responded “no, this is going to result in the largest tax increase in U.S. history. Again, it’s idiotic.” Wallace proceeded to let Palin spend the next minute reading from notes on paper that she had written down. He interrupted her just for a moment to ask if she had anything written down on her hand, to which she responded that she did:
PALIN: My palm isn’t large enough to have written all my notes down on what this tax increase, what it will result in.… Democrats are poised to cause the largest tax increase in U.S. history, it’s a tax increase of $3.8 trillion in the next ten years and it will have an effect on every single American who pays an income tax. Small businesses, especially, will be hit hardest. Small businesses account for roughly 70 percent of our job creation in this country. So raising taxes on these employers is the worst thing that can happen. WALLACE: Can I ask you, what do you have written on your hand? PALIN: $3.8 trillion in the next ten years, so I have didn’t say $3.7 trillion and get dinged by the liberals saying I didn’t know what I was talking about.
Watch it: Despite the preparation of her “cheat sheet,” she still doesn’t know what she is talking about. For one thing, according to the Pew Economic Policy Group, an extension of all of the Bush tax cuts will cost $3.1 trillion over ten years, once the costs of servicing the debt are factored in. But no one has proposed allowing them all expire, and it’s incredibly disingenuous of Republicans to claim otherwise, especially since it was a budget gimmick by former President George W. Bush to include the ten-year sunset at all. Extending just the cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans will cost $830 billion over ten years. As Center for American Progress Associate Director for Tax Policy Michael Linden wrote, “to put that figure in perspective, $830 billion is enough to pay for all veterans’ hospitals, doctors, and the rest of the Veteran’s Affairs health system, plus the United States Coast Guard, plus the Food and Drug Administration, plus the operation and maintenance of every single national park for the entire 10-year period — with more than $100 billion left over.” It was good that Wallace pointed out to Palin that Republicans are being hypocritical by complaining about deficits at the same time they’re calling for renewing huge tax breaks for the wealthy, but he then let her spew irresponsible claims that have no basis in reality.
This is cross-posted from Think Progress. With the legislative calendar starting to dwindle, lawmakers are paying more and more attention to the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of the year. Republicans across the board are advocating for the extension of all the cuts, and have explicitly said that extending the cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans (which would cost $678 billion) does not have to be paid for. President Obama has called for letting the cuts for the very richest expire, allowing the rates to reset to where they were under the Clinton administration. In an interview with Bloomberg News’ Judy Woodruff, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan went a step furthercalling for all of the tax cuts to expire, essentially sending the tax code back to 2001:
WOODRUFF: On those tax cuts, they are due to expire at the end of this year. Should they be extended? What should Congress do? GREENSPAN: I should say they should follow the law and let them lapse. WOODRUFF: Meaning what happens? GREENSPAN: Taxes go up. The problem is, unless we start to come to grips with this long-term outlook, we are going to have major problems. I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.
Greenspan’s right that addressing the long-term structural deficit is going to require raising some taxes, as getting the budget anywhere near balance entirely on the spending side would mean draconian cuts to popular programs that Americans support and rely on. But Greenspan was able to call for allowing the cuts while conveniently leaving out his role in getting them enacted in the first place. As Matt Yglesias has pointed out, “in 2001 Alan Greenspan warned the country against the prospect of budget surpluses and debt reduction and argued that only large regressive tax cuts could save the country from this specter.” It is “far better, in my judgment, that thesurpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases,” Greenspan said. Of course, the Bush tax cuts are now one of the biggest drivers of the country’s long term deficits, amounting to more than $3 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. While Greenspan is now expressing concern that “we misunderstand the momentum” of the deficit, less than a decade ago, he was claiming that we misunderstand the momentum of the surplus. In fact, as the New York Times reported at the time, Greenspan said that “without a tax cut the surplus might be so big that it would force the government to begin buying stocks and bonds on Wall Street in as little as five years, a development he said would be harmful to the free enterprise system.” In 2005, Greenspan said that “it turns out that we were all wrong” when it came to his 2001 support for the tax cuts (to which then Sen. Hillary Clinton shot back “just for the record,we were not all wrong, but many people were wrong”). He has also famously repented for his deregulatory zeal during the 1990’s, saying “those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.” So, Greenspan at least seems to be coming around to the notion that the conservative economic philosophy is a big sham that doesn’t work in practice. Will the rest of the GOPever follow?
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, 15 million Americans have lost their jobs. Almost half of them have been out of work for six months or more, and there are currently nearly five workers actively seeking work for every available job, compared to just 1.5 workers per opening before the recession. In fact, so many jobs were lost during the recession that even if we added 218,000 private-sector jobs each month from now on, which is the highest monthly payroll increase seen in the private sector so far this year, it would still take almost five years to get to normal. Despite these miserable statistics, the Senate has been unable to extend job benefits because of a Republican filibuster, which was joined by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). On three separate occasions, Democrats tried to break the filibuster but were unsuccessful. Last night, they came within one vote, as Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) finally signed on, but still the extension failed to pass. Though no senator voting to continue the filibuster should be allowed to escape culpability, many senators voting to sustain it are from states that have been hit particularly hard by the unemployment crisis and have a particular responsibility to get relief to those who, through no fault of their own, are now out of work. Here are the 17 senators from states with double-digit unemployment who are willing to leave their constituents without a safety net:
Senator(s) State Unemployment Rate Votes Against Cloture (Out Of Three)
Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby (R) Alabama 10.8% Three each
Sen. George LeMieux (R) Florida 10.4% Three
Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (R) Georgia 10.2% Three each
Sen. Richard Lugar (R) Indiana 10.0% Three
Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning (R) Kentucky 10.4% Three each
Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran (R) Mississippi 11.4% Three each
Sen. John Ensign (R) Nevada 14.0% Three
Sen. Richard Burr (R) North Carolina 10.3% Three
Sen. George Voinivich Ohio 10.7% Three
Sen. Lindsey Graham South Carolina 11.0% Two (Missed vote on 6/17)
Sen. Jim DeMint South Carolina 11.0% Two (Missed vote on 6/30)
Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee 10.4% Three each
1.3 million people have lost their benefits this month alone, and this is actually an historic step on the part of the Senate, as “never before has Congress cut off benefits when unemployment was so high.” In fact, “the highest unemployment rate at which these extensions were allowed to expire was 7.2 percent, following the 1983 recession — substantially lower than our current rate of 9.7 percent.” But perhaps Republicans in the Senate agree with Sharron Angle that unemployed people are simply “spoiled” and “afraid to get a job”?