News/Campaigns/Economy & Budget

News/Campaigns/Economy & Budget

Seniors' groups battle over Medicare

Two influential seniors advocacy groups are battling on national television for influence over seniors’ support of the GOP Medicare reforms.

A new ad campaign, sponsored by the 60 Plus Association, a self-described conservative alternative to the AARP, began airing Friday on national cable channels and on broadcast television in key swing states Florida and Ohio. See the ad below.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stars in the ad, defending his own plan before a voice-over declares that “only one plan reforms Medicare and protects seniors.”

The campaign marks the latest show-down between 60 Plus and AARP, the largest senior lobbying organization in the U.S.

AARP released a new national ad on Thursday accusing Congress of spending seniors’ money on trivial projects such as “pickle technology” in exchange for cutting seniors’ benefits.

60 Plus also waged a TV ad campaign against the Democrats’ reform bills in 2009 and 2010, while AARP largely supported the Affordable Care Act.

Ryan’s Prosperity PAC slammed AARP last week, calling it a "left-leaning pressure group." The powerful lobby sought to “intentionally mislead seniors” about Ryan’s plan’s effect on Medicare, according to a letter to Ryan’s supporters.


Corker: Bernanke 'earned the right to see this through'

Count at least one Republican in favor of confirming Ben Bernanke to a second term as Fed chairman.

Sen. Bob Corker (D-Tenn.) says Bernanke has "earned the right" to help steer the Fed through the financial crisis.

"Chairman Bernanke has earned the right to see this through and lead the Federal Reserve through these volatile times," said Corker.

"I'm sure he hasn't made all the right calls, but he doesn't have a political cell in his body, and that's what you need in a Fed chairman," the Tennessee Republican added. "I believe he wakes up every day trying to focus on what ought to be done for the good of the country--not politics."

Reid expects Bernanke to be confirmed

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised President Obama today for nominating Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second term and said he expects Bernanke to win Senate confirmation.

"Chairman Bernanke has played an important role in our nation's economic recovery efforts. His expertise and leadership as Federal Reserve Chairman have been crucial as our nation has endured this financial crisis," Reid said.

"His re-nomination will bring continuity to the Federal Reserve that will send the right signal to the marketplace. I support President Obama's decision to re-nominate Chairman Bernanke and expect the Senate to re-confirm him," Reid added.

Bernanke has been criticized for helping to orchestrate bank bailouts and for allegedly pressuring Bank of America to go through with its acquisition of Merrill Lynch despite the doubts of some top executives.

Buffett tells Congress to get fiscal house in order

Mega investor Warren Buffett urged lawmakers to cut spending or raise taxes in order to stave off destructive inflation.

Buffett, in a New York Times op-ed column Wednesday, wrote that the record federal deficit this year will lead to public debt levels that can only be reduced through lower spending or more tax revenue. The independent Congressional Budget Office said that 2009 deficit would reach $1.8 trillion (though budget analysts expect the deficit to be $1.6 trillion)

Buffett, CEO of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, likened the threat of inflation to that of global warming.

"Unchecked carbon emissions will likely cause icebergs to melt. Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt," he said. "The dollar's destiny lies with Congress."

While he said that the immediate focus should be on an economic recovery, he said that Congress needs to address the debt so that it grows in line with the economy. He noted that the debt-to-GDP level is "mushrooming" this year because of the deficit, going from 41 percent to 56 percent.

"Admittedly, other countries, like Japan and Italy, have far higher ratios and no one can know the precise level of net debt to G.D.P. at which the United States will lose its reputation for financial integrity," Buffett wrote. "But a few more years like this one and we will find out."

He added that the obvious ways to finance big deficits -- borrowing from foreigners or from Americans -- won't be enough to prevent inflation, and that Congress will need to make serious changes to fiscal policy.

"Washington's printing presses will need to work overtime," Buffett wrote. "Slowing them down will require extraordinary political will. With government expenditures now running 185 percent of receipts, truly major changes in both taxes and outlays will be required. A revived economy can't come close to bridging that sort of gap."

Buffett hasn't hesitated from giving advice to Congress and the president before. He told lawmakers to pass bailouts for banks last fall to avoid "the biggest financial meltdown in American history." Buffett, a billionaire and the third-richest person in the world, has also criticized income tax rates on the wealthy, noting that he
pays a lower rate than his receptionist

--Walter Alarkon

Report: DC has the best job market in the country

The nation is enduring one of the worst job markets in decades with 9.4 percent of the population unable to find a job. Considering that one eastern metropolis is ripe for a gold rush on jobs: Washington, DC.

A new report from job-search site shows that the nation's capital has a ratio of six job openings to every one unemployed person, ripe for those looking to work at the center of politics and government.

The worst city? That would be Detroit, Michigan, the home of several struggling domestic automakers. For every one job opening in Detroit, a whopping eighteen people cannot find a job.

The data used is from this June and was drawn from the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the United States.

Ten Dem senators write Obama about climate bill

Ten Democratic senators urged President Obama today to support stronger protections for U.S. manufacturing in major climate legislation.

In a letter to Obama, the senators asked for a strong "border adjustment mechanism" to help U.S. industries adjustment to higher energy costs. Such a "mechanism" might include a tax or tariff against foreign manufacturers whose costs aren't affected by the legislation.

"Any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States," the senators write.

"It is essential that climate change legislation include a border mechanism, sufficient allowances to energy intensive industries and other effective measures that encourage international agreements and maintain a level playing field for American manufacturers."

U.S. trading partners have warned that a "border tax" might trigger retaliatory tariffs.

The letter's signatories hail mostly from midwest and/or industrial states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc.

The climate bill narrowly passed the House but has yet to come up for a vote in the Senate.

The signatories include: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.), Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V), and Al Franken (D-Minn).

Read the full letter after the jump.


Top aides won't rule out middle-class tax hikes

President Obama's two top economic advisers will not rule out a middle-class tax hike to pay for either the federal deficit or healthcare reform.

Obama pledged repeatedly during the campaign that he would not raise taxes on the middle class, but remarks yesterday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Directory Larry Summers suggest the door is still open:
Geithner and Summers both sidestepped questions on Obama's intentions about taxes. Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to reduce the federal deficit; Summers said Obama's proposed health care overhaul needs funding from somewhere.

"There is a lot that can happen over time," Summers said, adding that the administration believes "it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what."


"If we want an economy that's going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it's going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform," Geithner said. "We're not at the point yet where we're going to make a judgment about what it's going to take."

Suggesting healthcare reform might require a middle class tax increase just as lawmakers are limping back to their districts for the August recess? Whoops...

LaHood: 'Cash for clunkers' will be suspended next week if the Senate doesn't act

The "cash for clunkers" program will have to be suspended next week unless the Senate acts to authorize a $2 billion extension for the program, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood said Sunday.

"If we don't get the $2 billion from the Senate...we would have to suspend the program next week," LaHood said during an appearance on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program.

LaHood said he expected the additional money for the rebate program would fund trade-ins of old autos for more fuel efficient vehicles through Labor Day.

"We believe the $2 billion we're very hopeful the Senate will pass this week...will take us through the time that Congress gets back after Labor Day," the former Illinois Republican congressman asserted.

Extended funding for the program passed the House this week by a strong, bipartisan margin, but may face more obstacles in the Senate. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has signaled he may filibuster the bill, and a key Rust Belt Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) has already said she's disinclined to support the bill.

Furthermore, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), two of the authors of the initial "cash for clunkers" legislation, asked LaHood for more data on the cost and extent of the environmental impact of the program before the Senate reauthorizes the program.

"If the Senate does not pass the additional $2 billion, the program will get suspended," LaHood cautioned, while also asserting that the environmental standards contained in the first program should be left alone.

The Transportation secretary said that additional purchases using the vouchers will be continued throughout the week until the Senate acts.

If the Senate doesn't act in time, LaHood said the Obama administration would evaluate other options to extend the program.

"I think the conclusion is that the TARP money cannot be used for this," he said, adding that the administration has been evaluating redirecting other federal spending to support the program.

LaHood also defended the effectiveness of the program as one of the most stimulative bits of government spending embarked upon by the White House and Congress.

"It is probably the one real stimulus part that has worked very, very well," he said.