United States News Digest
Obama's Payroll Tax Holiday Is 'an Assault on Social Security'
Dec. 10 (EIRNS)In a hard-hitting conference call today, sponsored by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, speakers warned that the proposal for a "payroll tax holiday"which has been adopted by President Obama as part of his deal with Republicansis an essential element of a long-standing conservative Republican plan to destroy Social Security. Former Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, spokesman for the Committee, charged that Obama's scheme will promote the privatization of Social Security.
Nancy Altman, codirector of Social Security Works, pointed out that Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security as a insurance program, separateand indeed firewalledfrom the general Treasury fund. Altman cited FDR's statement that, "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program."
Altman pointed out that, for years, conservatives have been gunning for Social Security, trying to cut benefits, and ultimately privatize it. That Democrats allowed this proposal to get into Obama's plan shows how little they understand about FDR's program. "President Obama seems not to understand the program," Altman added. The White House is treating the payroll tax holiday as a "concession" from the GOP, which, she notes, is sort of like the GOP saying, "Please, don't throw me in the briar patch."
Altman predicted that the tax holiday won't last just one year, because Congress will soon face the choice of cutting discretionary spending or cutting Social Security. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research pointed out that if the payroll tax holiday is allowed to expire, the Republicans will be screaming about a "tax increase"just as they are with respect to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Altman amplified the point, by observing that this will be a Republican "make my day" moment, if Obama allows it to expire, and thus "increases" taxes.
"There is no reason to do it this way," Altman declared, "except as an assault on Social Security."
Reid Pushes Jackpot for his Gambler Backers: Internet Poker Bill
Dec. 11 (EIRNS)As a top priority for the lame-duck session of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is currying the favor of the very Las Vegas casino operators whose largesse was largely responsible for his narrow reelection this year. He is pushing a bill that would, the Washington Post writes this morning, "give official government approval to Texas hold-'em, five-card stud, and other Internet poker games, which currently exist in a legal twilight zone dominated by companies operating from the Isle of Man and other exotic foreign locales."
The bill, which would be a boondoggle for the Nevada gambling interests who backed his campaign, is more narrowly focused than an otherwise similar bill championed in the House by Barney Frank (D-Mass.), which would legalize practically all forms of Internet betting. Reid's bill is given an uncertain chance of passage in the remaining days of this Congress, and almost none in the next, because of Republican opposition.
Ohio and Wisconsin Republicans Kill High-Speed Rail
Dec. 10 (EIRNS)The insanity of the new breed of monetarist Republicans coming into power, was demonstrated today by two incoming Governors. Following in the footsteps of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who scrapped a rail tunnel project into New York City partially funded with Federal funds, Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasichboth governors-elect who campaigned on refusing Federal projects (and money) for high-speed railare living up to their campaign pledges.
A total of $1.2 billion in Federal funds for the two states has been rejected, and is being recalled and redistributed to high-speed rail lines in other states, mostly California and Florida, said Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood. The Milwaukee-to-Madison (and on to Chicago) line where the high-speed line was intended, is now the most-used Amtrak route in the Midwest. Governor-elect Walker offered an insane excuse: that the state would have been responsible for an annual operating cost of $7.5 million, which Wisconsin can't afford.
Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, called the decision "a tragic moment" for the state. "Our team worked hard to win a national competition to make us a leader in high-speed passenger rail," Doyle said. "We were positioned to be not only a center of the line, but to be a manufacturing center as well. Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line."
Petra Torodovich of the Regional Plan Association, a New York rail think tank, countered that "investments in passenger rail lines in the United States and around the world, especially high-speed rail, result in long-term economic growth."
In Ohio, a high-speed connection between Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, which Kasich called "shortsighted," is being scrapped. "It does beg the question, what is the long-term economic strategy for the state of Wisconsin, and how will he grow the economy and create jobs," said Torodovich.
LaRouche Told Dems, Remove Obama; They Didn't; Now Obama's Removing Them
Dec. 8 (EIRNS)Lyndon LaRouche had told the Democrats before the November election, "Remove Obama from office with Article 4 of the 25th Amendment; it's the only way to avert disaster." Democrats insisted they couldn't do that; now, Obama is getting rid of them, and putting in their place a fascist alliance with the new wave of Republicans in Congress.
This is the basic political reality surrounding Obama's tax-cut deal with Congressional Republicans. A "senior aide to Obama" (believed to be David Axelrod), told CNN today that Obama's tax deal "gets done, but it does not get done with a majority of Democratic votes." Another "person close to Obama" told Politico that "differentiating Obama from Congressional Democrats is a positive byproduct of the tax-cut agreement. Compared to these guys, the President looks mature and pragmatic."
House Democrats were generally upset-to-furious in a caucus meeting last night, having been frozen out of Obama's "deal," and seeing the added Constitutional insult of Obama's intention to launch the "Dubya II" tax bill in the Senate, whereas all revenue bills are constitutionally supposed to originate in the House. Leaders Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Chris Van Hollen all made extremely negative comments about the deal to the press after the caucus. Obama is not sure of having enough votes to pass it in the House.
Obama heaped narcissistic scorn on the Democrats at his hastily called self-justification press conference yesterday afternoon. He called them "sanctimonious," "purists," "unrealistic," and said they "will never get anything done" if they oppose him.
Oakland Police Department Eroding in Aftermath of Layoffs
Dec. 8 (EIRNS)Some officials and residents in Oakland, Calif. probably breathed a sigh of relief in November, when voters approved a measure to keep funding the police department. That measure meant that the plan to lay off 112 police officers in January (after 80 had been laid off in July) would not be implemented. However, the department has been eroding manpower ever since. The July layoffs amounted to 10% of the force, but it has since declined to 669 filled positions, while city officials say there's only enough money for 637 positions, in a department which its chief says needs 925 officers to adequately protect the city. "There's really low morale here at the police department," Dom Artozarena, the president of the Oakland Police Officers' Association, told KGO-TV. "A lot of officers here feel that city management has failed them," and so many are leaving without waiting to be laid off. Further layoffs seem likely, given that next year's budget deficit is projected to be about $60 million.