Economy & Budget

Oil companies sound tense in countdown to new disclosure rules

Last week's debate over a government shutdown showed once again how easily campaigning can overshadow policy in Washington. Leaders tackled tough choices and set rhetoric aside, however briefly, only when faced with the pressure of a final deadline. 

Corporate disclosure is not as TV-friendly as the budget battle, but since Congress passed new rules requiring more openness by oil and mining companies, a war of words has broken out over the Dodd-Frank provisions for fuller disclosure of oil and mining payments to governments. Citizens and investors around the globe, especially those in oil-rich countries, should hope that the debate over industry reporting rules also shifts to facts. 

With the oil industry's high-octane warnings about the law, the stakes are particularly high. The big five U.S. oil companies had combined profits nearing $1 trillion over the past decade, as Dan Froomkin pointed out on Saturday in the Huffington Post, and the industry has spent nearly $1 billion on lobbying since 1998. 


How to prevent a financial doomsday

Among Obama administration officials, calls to raise the debt ceiling are getting more melodramatic by the day. Timothy Geithner kicked things off in January, warning that defaulting on our debt would be "catastrophic."  Senior White House adviser David Plouffe added the flourish "catastrophic failure" and threw in a "wreak havoc" on Sunday's "Meet the Press." With few options left in the thesaurus by Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney turned to the Bible to describe a failure to raise the debt limit as "Armageddon-like."
A skeptic might think the Democrats are laying the groundwork to accuse Republicans of being reckless in insisting that the debt ceiling vote be accompanied by debt reduction measures. In reality, it would be irresponsible to automatically raise the debt ceiling without implementing meaningful fiscal reforms.


Republican budget a 'Roadmap to Ruin'

The Republican budget plan, their Roadmap to Ruin, is breathtaking in its recklessness.  It’s one of the worst proposals I can recall seeing during 18 years in Congress.

We need other choices, like the People’s Budget that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is offering today.  It’s called the People’s Budget because it invests in people and listens to people…because its values are American values.

The People’s Budget shows that you can tame the deficit without shredding the safety net, without destroying Medicare, without giving the back of the hand treatment to the middle class.  We think working families deserve more prosperity, not more austerity.


A budget is a moral document

I believe that budget proposals are moral documents, reflecting the values of our country and who we want to be as a nation.  The budget proposals put forth by Republican Budget Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would slash funding for critical programs – including those that help students, the poor, pregnant women, the disabled and older Americans. This morning, I spoke against the Republican Budget proposal on the House floor: 


The president has failed to lead the U.S. to fiscal responsibility

At the eleventh hour last Friday, leadership in Congress and the Administration came to an agreement on how to proceed with this year’s spending bill in order to prevent a government shutdown. Was anyone happy about the agreement that was made? Certainly not, but my conviction on the vote was without a doubt dependent upon our troops getting paid. 

Under no circumstances can we ask our men and women in uniform to fight in three wars but not pay them. If Congress failed to pass the bill by Friday at midnight, soldiers all around the world, fighting on the frontlines for our freedom, would not have received a paycheck for their service. The domino effect could have been disastrous, as many of their family members are dependent upon that money to keep their family secure.

This agreement is a start, but certainly not the finish of the spending debate. There’s no doubt about it – our government is overweight, and it’s time we put it on a diet. You can’t lose all the weight over night – but you have to start somewhere. Now, we’re starting a bigger debate and fight on the 2012 budget, where we are going to be talking about cutting trillions instead of billions. It’s going to take lots of discipline and patience over the years, but we have to work towards balancing the budget. 


Bipartisan legislation seeks to put 'pill mills' out of business

Garrett Harney’s last words of despair to his mother were, “Mom, I can’t be helped.” Shortly after, Garrett fatally overdosed on OxyContin and Xanax.  Since the tragedy, Garrett’s mother, a Sarasota, Florida resident, has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the hope of sparing other parents the ordeal she and her son faced.

While Florida is infamous as “ground zero” in the prescription drug battle, the problem is escalating throughout the country. Earlier this year, a former Needham, Massachusetts doctor and his nurse practitioner were charged with distributing medically unnecessary painkillers to people they knew to be drug addicts or dealers. Before federal authorities raided the practice, six of their patients died of prescription drug overdoses. 


Don't make Social Security a victim

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent President Obama the following letter in advance of his speech on his plan for long-term deficits today.

Dear President Obama:
We write to you today, in advance of your speech on our nation’s long-term fiscal stability, to express our continued support for protecting and strengthening Social Security. As you know, 137 members of the United States Congress signed a letter last year opposing any cuts to Social Security Benefits, including raising the retirement age. The signatories also stated their opposition to any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.  


Offer an action plan, not just a vision

All across the country this morning, Americans are struggling — and they’re not getting much in the way of help or hope from Washington. Those who are unemployed or eager to hire are frustrated by the mountain of burdensome new rules and regulations Democrats have imposed on them in the past two years and by the uncertainty that comes with every proposal to create another one. They’re shocked that a White House which doesn’t even try to balance its checkbook would repeatedly propose to raise taxes. And more and more, they’re worried about the consequences of our debt and the President’s reluctance to do anything about it.

But even more upsetting to many Americans is the White House’s repeated attempts to seem as if it’s doing something about these things when it isn’t. That’s just what the President has sought to do in talking about the need to reform entitlements and lower the debt, but refusing to lift a finger to do either. And that’s just what I fear he’ll do again this afternoon in outlining his ‘vision’ for tackling these problems without so much as presenting a single new idea or anything approaching a workable plan to get us there. 


President’s reversal on debt, entitlement reform

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the bipartisan funding bill, the President’s speech tomorrow on entitlement reform and the rising national debt:

As the Senate gets back to work this week, it’s worth noting that a sea of change appears to have taken place in Washington over the past few weeks.

Just two months ago, the President proposed a vision of government that ignored the fiscal crisis virtually everyone else in the country knows we need to address. And Democrats in Congress proposed that rather than cutting Washington spending, we instead raise taxes on oil and gas companies, who, as we know, would pass it along to American consumers in the form of higher gas prices, at a time when gas prices are double what they were two years ago.


Mrs. Warren's profession

Goodness, some members of Congress really don't like Elizabeth Warren. Is it because she's a law professor? From Harvard? Or is it simply that she threatens to end "unfair, deceptive or abusive practices," which is what the Dodd-Frank charges the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with doing?