Economy & Budget

Tax relief for 98 percent of Americans

The Alternative Minimum Tax has finally been altered so that it won’t hurt middle-income families. For years, people have assumed this was just a tax on the wealthy but it was never indexed to inflation. In fact it has been modified or revamped 19 times in the last 42 years. Now it is indexed to inflation, so many families that worked their way into it, or were sitting on the bubble worrying about qualifying for it, now will do neither.


More cliff-diving to come

The leadership has now averted the much-talked-about fiscal cliff , which was never the threat that it was purported to be. Rather, it provided a wonderful opportunity for the do-nothing Senate to craft legislation that supports the president's agenda of wealth redistribution.

An honest analysis of the bill makes it clear that it really doesn't address the fundamental problems of massive federal deficits as far as the eye can see. In fact, over the next 10 years it increases the national debt by $4 trillion.


What Harry Reid has done

This place needs a little action as Congress remains stalled, so I will briefly answer my brother Rick Manning, who asks: What has Harry Reid done? Well, the answer is simple. Harry Reid has done what majority leaders should do, which is bring the Senate into session to solve the problems of the nation. By contrast, John Boehner has not done what Speakers are supposed to do. First, Boehner's idea that he will only bring up legislation that a majority of Republicans favors violates the very job description of the Speaker, which is to be the Speaker of the full House, not just the Speaker of the Republicans. Then Boehner lost control of his House Republicans. Then Boehner offered a ridiculous Plan B that was doomed to fail. Now Boehner has led his House to head for the hills, and says it is up to Harry Reid to legislate.


What has Harry Reid done?

Nothing is more infuriating than hearing a politician who has failed to act in six months on a single piece of legislation to end a crisis complaining about someone who has strenuously worked to produce a solution to the problem.


Reid's charge, Boehner's abdication: Obama should call the House back into session

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made an extraordinary statement this morning correctly taking House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to task for what is one of the great abdications of responsibility in modern government. Reid is right, but these charges and counter-charges are wearing thin, and it is time for President Obama to exercise his authority to call the House of Representatives back to do what they are paid by taxpayers to do: govern.


Time to be the Speaker

I have a simple plea to John Boehner – be the Speaker.

The Speaker of the House can dictate what spending gets done and what doesn’t, if he uses his constitutional powers.

The president can merely sign or reject anything passed by the Congress.

The Senate can merely accept or amend anything passed by the House.

It is Boehner’s House that holds all the cards in the spending/tax debate. So, come back from Christmas and start playing them.


Plan B is Plan Nowhere

Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” is clearly a tactic, not a serious proposal, and it is going nowhere.
It reminds me of the Bruce Springsteen song “Radio Nowhere” — “I was trying to find my way home/ But all I heard was a drone/ Bouncing off a satellite … This is Radio Nowhere/ Is there anybody alive out there?”
Really, we are so very close to an agreement, why put out a “Plan Nowhere” that is not a serious proposal? In fact, it would make the problems worse if it were to be adopted, which it won’t.
Why would he do this?


Ultimate responsibility

Are the Republicans allowing President Obama to define the issues in the fiscal-cliff debate? President Obama desperately would like to keep the focus on taxes when the most severe problem is spending. It must be emphasized that you can tax the top 2 percent at 100 percent and you would still have a gigantic fiscal problem.


Scarcity and choice

According to Wikipedia:

“Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone … It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices. The opportunity cost is also the ‘cost’ (as a lost benefit) of the forgone products after making a choice. Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics, and has been described as expressing ‘the basic relationship between scarcity and choice.’ ”

As my friend Steve Bell, of the Bipartisan Policy Center, reminded me yesterday, the opportunity costs of not doing a “big” deal that includes fundamental entitlement and tax reform in the context of the fiscal cliff are enormous.


C-SPAN the fiscal-cliff talks

The First World War was begun because of incompetent statesmanship by leaders who did not want a war but blundered into one. The fiscal-cliff fiasco can only happen if leaders in Washington continue the same mistakes that have plagued the capital for far too long and blunder into an economic crash they do not want.

Given the limited time and momentous issues surrounding the fiscal-cliff discussions, I propose that first, Congress enact a 30- to 45-day cooling-off "punt"; second, that Senate leaders be brought into the center of the fiscal-cliff talks; and third, that a major round of fiscal-cliff talks be conducted in public and broadcast live on C-SPAN.