Posts Tagged White House
MAY 14, 2013
KIM JONG-UN DEFENDS RIGHT TO OBTAIN JOURNALISTS’ PHONE RECORDS
POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ
PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report)—As controversy swirled around the Department of Justice’s move to obtain journalists’ phone records, the White House picked up a vote of support today from an unexpected source, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
“I honestly don’t see what the fuss is all about,” Mr. Kim said in an official statement today. “Of course it’s the government’s right to know what people are doing at all times—and journalists would be right at the top of the list.”
Mr. Kim also offered a vigorous defense of the I.R.S. policy of auditing the tax returns of organizations that oppose the government: “Again, this is something I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over, and I know Dad felt the same way.”
In what was an otherwise laudatory statement about the activities of the U.S. government, Mr. Kim offered one small critique: “They could save themselves the work of conducting audits and obtaining phone records if they would just get rid of journalists and anti-government groups in the first place. But, you know, baby steps.”
All in all, news of the I.R.S. audits and phone-records scandals have given the mercurial dictator hope that North Korea and the United States might have warmer relations in the future: “We have a lot more in common than I thought.”
- Kim Jong-un Defends Right to Obtain Journalists’ Phone Records (newyorker.com)
- Rodman Asks Kim Jong-Un To Free Prisoner (news.sky.com)
- North Korea: Kim Jong-un ‘targets George W. Bush’s home state of Texas’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Who’s really behind Kim Jong-un? http://t.co/VOaOPNm3Qk (smh.com.au)
- Kim Jong-un Moves Transformers Collection to Border (newyorker.com)
- Kim wants to be remembered for … anything – Sydney Morning Herald (smh.com.au)
- Dennis Rodman pleads with ‘friend’ Kim Jong-un to release US prisoner (metro.co.uk)
- North Korean Leader, Young and Defiant, Strains Ties With Chinese (bytes01.wordpress.com)
- BREAKING: North Korea: ‘OUTBREAK OF WAR HOURS AWAY’ As Kim Jong-un PLANS US STRIKE [W/ VIDEO] (secretsofthefed.com)
- N. Korea replaces hardline defense chief with unknown (foxnews.com)
Still Far Apart on Budget, Obama and House G.O.P. Meet
Published: March 13, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Obama headed back to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to win over his loudest critics in Congress: the restless and resistant House Republican majority.
After his session Tuesday with Senate Democrats, the president was to spend an hour with Speaker John A. Boehner and the 231 other House Republicans, who have regularly tangled with the White House and Senate Democrats over tax and spending policy. The fight is being renewed this week as House Republicans unveiled their budget, calling for a repeal of the new health care law and a major overhaul of Medicare.
Senate Democrats prepared to release their own plan on Wednesday, which would raise new revenues through tax increases and call for new public investment.
As some Republicans left the meeting early, they were not exactly sounding optimistic about a grand compromise.
“Well, he doesn’t want to balance the budget in 10 years, and he wants tax increases and he wants new spending,” said Representative Darrell Issa of California. “But other than that we’re close.”
Mr. Obama spoke for about 25 minutes, before taking questions. Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, said that military spending did not come up, though he wished it had, and that the president talked about tax reform and said balancing the budget within 10 years was not his top priority.
Other issues that came up, attendees said, included immigration, guns, Israel and the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans said they left the meeting with the impression that the president was nearing a decision on the pipeline.
A topic on which the group seemed able to reach at least a modicum of compromise was entitlement reform. “He said he’s willing to look at them, without any specifics, if we’re willing to give him what he wants,” said Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas.
White House officials described the meeting as a good one that provided the president a face-to-face opportunity to call on Republicans to compromise on the budget and other issues.
Aides said Mr. Obama was blunt about what has been called his “charm offensive” with Republicans, telling the House Republicans that there is a need to build trust between the two parties.
But he also told lawmakers that he believed there was an opportunity for the White House and Congress to reach agreement on some big, contentious issues, including taxes, immigration and gun control.
White House officials said the president made no new offers on taxes and spending. Instead, he repeated his push for a “grand bargain” that would include tax increases and more spending cuts.
At one point during the meeting, a member of the White House staff interrupted and handed the president a note informing him that a new pope had been chosen. Someone shouted out, “Does this mean White House tours are open?” To which the president responded, “Vatican tours are.”
Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, sounded cautiously optimistic.
The president, he said, “did himself some good.” Mr. Ryan, walking out of the meeting, then joked that the real question he wanted answered was who the new pope was.
The competing budgets and the Republican refusal to entertain additional tax revenues seemed to raise new questions in the president’s mind about whether a broad budget deal was achievable, even before his talk with the House Republicans.
“Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide,” the president said in an interview with ABC that was broadcast Wednesday morning. “It may be that ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do any revenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,’ if that’s the position, then we’re probably not going to be able to get a deal.”
In the interview, Mr. Obama also disputed an assertion that has become dogma among House Republicans: that the country faces a debt crisis and must balance its budget. The new House plan sets out to balance the budget within 10 years.
But Mr. Obama played down the idea that the federal debt was crippling the nation.
“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” Mr. Obama said. He also said that failure to get a big deal would not send the economy into a tailspin.
“That won’t – that won’t create a crisis,” he said on ABC. “It just means that we will have missed an opportunity. I think that opportunity is there and I’m going to – make sure that they know that I’m prepared to – work with them.”
Republican lawmakers quickly disputed the president’s contention that the debt did not represent a crisis, as budget hearings got under way in both houses of Congress.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to say he was “shocked” at the president’s words.
Across the Rotunda in the House, Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a Republican member of the House Budget Committee, said that if Democrats would not agree to bring the budget into balance, there could be no deal.
“The problem is we have no one to compromise with,” Mr. Duffy said. “If they won’t give us a proposal to balance it, there’s no room for negotiation.”
In a sign of just how different Democratic and Republican priorities are on the budget, House Republicans on Tuesday, led by Mr. Ryan, released their spending plan for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. But it would balance the budget primarily by wiping out some of Mr. Obama’s biggest legislative achievements, like his hard-fought victory to require that all Americans have health insurance.
At the same time, Senate Democrats were preparing to lay out their budget on Wednesday, a plan that rejects the Republican vision for greater austerity and includes $100 billion in new stimulus spending.
- Obama Begins Meetings With Lawmakers (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Hagel Prevails in Senate After Bruising Bout With G.O.P. – NYTimes.com (coralvillecourier.typepad.com)
- Paul “PX 90″ Ryan’s Budget Plan Unveiled: It Looks Very Familiar!!! (theobamacrat.com)
- Analysis: ‘Grand bargain’ a tough sell in Congress (news.yahoo.com)
- BETTER LATE THAN … Senate Dems Release First Budget in Four Years (foxnews.com)
- As budget battles resume, Republicans hope Obama ‘sincere’ in compromise efforts (givemeliberty01.com)
- Obama to meet with House GOP (politico.com)
- Two sides still far apart in budget proposals – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
- On Capitol Hill, budget vs. budget (theneteconomy.wordpress.com)
- Republicans hope Obama ‘sincere’ in compromise efforts (godgutsandoldglory.wordpress.com)
It’s going to be a long slog
By Ruth Marcus,
“We have to get right in our minds that the bully pulpit will always probably get better press than we will,” the House Budget Committee chairman and the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee told me Wednesday evening in an interview. “That cannot deter us. . . .The sequester will happen, and that will be occurring all along until the president is willing to do an agreement that deals with the entitlement problem and the debt crisis.”
To listen to Ryan is to understand that the country should brace for a months-long slog, from sequester to continuing resolution to, yes, another debt-ceiling showdown sometime this summer.
Really, I ask, the debt ceiling, again? I thought Republicans were determined to avoid replaying that losing hand. “Not this time,” Ryan said, before the words were even out of my mouth.
“The debt problem is getting worse,” he said. “We’re not leaving this session of Congress until we have a down payment on the problem.”
That stance might not be so worrisome — indeed, it might be welcome, because the debt problem is real and curbing entitlement spending essential — were it not for the insistence of Ryan and fellow Republicans that the down payment be composed entirely of spending cuts.
That’s no surprise, but one insight that emerges from talking to Ryan is the degree to which his zeal for tax reform drives the refusal to consider new revenue. The general Republican allergy to taxes and the party’s specific unwillingness to swallow another increase, on top of the rate rise agreed to as part of the fiscal-cliff deal, is part of what drives the current no-new-taxes attitude, but only part. There is some method to this anti-tax madness.
In making the cliff deal, White House officials had bet that dangling the lure of tax reform before Republicans would lead them to cough up hundreds of billions more in additional revenue.
In fact, as Ryan explains it, exactly the opposite may be true. The extra revenue provided by the cliff deal provided the cushion needed to accomplish tax reform — a higher base from which to start trimming loopholes and lowering rates.
At the same time, however, only so much pruning is politically palatable. So closing enough loopholes to produce additional revenue — on top of what is needed to pay for the rate-trimming — is difficult. “Been there, done that,” Ryan says of new tax revenue.
I disagree, vehemently, with Ryan’s assessment of the proper mix of tax revenue and spending cuts to deal with the debt. Much more than the $700 billion or so raised in the fiscal cliff deal is needed to get the debt under control without imposing damaging cuts.
But I think he makes two legitimate, interconnected points. First, where’s the president’s budget? “I’ve never seen such staggering disrespect for the budgeting process,” Ryan said.
The budget was due, by law, the first Monday in February; now, it probably won’t be out until sometime in March.
The White House says that the delay is due to fiscal-cliff wrangling and the cumbersome process of updating discretionary spending numbers once the deal was struck. But the document ought to have been out by now — not because failing to have the president’s budget delays action on Capitol Hill but because the public is owed an overview of the president’s blueprint for governing.
Second, and related, how precisely does the president propose to rein in entitlement spending? The White House points to its offer from the last negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner and says that remains on the table. It cites earlier budget proposals on Medicare and puts it all together in a blog post that confirmed its willingness to change the formula for calculating Social Security cost-of-living increases. But, really, a blog post? What about a plan that the president himself explains, and sells, to the country?
“He never gives the public an honest account of what he’s willing to do on entitlements,” Ryan said of the president. “Trimming a statistic,” he sniffed of the proposed Social Security tweak, “is not entitlement reform.”
Ryan didn’t expect to be reliving what he describes as budget “Groundhog Day.” At this point in a Mitt Romney administration, Ryan imagined, he would be maneuvering to pass the grand debt-reduction plan.
“Mitt and I were going to bring to Congress a plan to fix this this year and we were going to launch a charm offensive with Senate Democrats to work with them to do it,” Ryan said.
So much for charm offensive. This is going to be trench warfare.
- It’s going to be a long slog on the federal fiscal crisis: Ruth Marcus (oregonlive.com)
- Ryan: We’ll See If Obama Uses the Sequester Flexibility We Plan to Give Him (cnsnews.com)
- The details Paul Ryan doesn’t want you to know (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- How we got to the sequester’s doorstep: Ruth Marcus (oregonlive.com)
- “GOP Reversion To Form”: When Did “Tax Reform” Become A Tax Hike? (bell-book-candle.com)
- My Message to the White House & Senate Democrats Tomorrow: Do Your Job & Pass a Bill (speaker.gov)
- Charles Krauthammer – Republicans mustn’t wimp-out on Sequester (mypoliticalmusings.wordpress.com)
- ABC confronts Paul Ryan for praising sequester before using it to slam Obama (rawstory.com)
- How Republicans see the sequester (washingtonpost.com)
- What happened when I asked Paul Ryan why he hates taxes (washingtonpost.com)
Making Sense, by Michael Reagan
America’s got some serious problems to solve.
Our Obama Economy is still stuck in a ditch by the side of the road.
Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle
Our campaigner in chief is running around the country pushing for higher taxes and no spending cuts and crying, “The federal sky will fall!” if Congress doesn’t stop the puny 10 percent sequester from happening.
In Washington the incompetents and cowards in Congress can’t get our fiscal house in order, and they’re too stupid or self-serving to realize they are wrecking the greatest economic machine humans have ever created.
We have a budget to balance and an immigration problem. We’re spending trillions we don’t have and promising tens of trillions more in benefits our grandchildren can never repay.
And what are many of my fellow Republicans and conservatives in Washington — and the media — doing while America is being towed down the road to Greece?
They’re thrashing around in the political weeds, wasting their breath complaining about petty political things that may boost the ratings of talk shows but are otherwise meaningless.
For example, one of the outrages of the week involves the White House being accused of selling access to President Obama in exchange for $500,000 donations to his latest pet advocacy group.
Are these Republican and conservative friends of mine kidding? Were they born yesterday?
The parties in power in Washington have been selling access to their powers and privileges forever.
That’s why libertarians want to keep the federal government as small, weak and limited as possible, so that when Washington politicians are bought off, they can do as little harm to the country as possible.
Another example this week of Republicans making a partisan mountain out of a molehill is their attack on former Obama press mouthpiece Robert Gibbs for not telling reporters what he knew about the administration’s secret drone program.
Conservatives looking for dirt on Obama and liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart went to town over Gibbs’ silence.
But it was just another petty complaint du jour. The White House doesn’t tell reporters everything it’s doing or planning. It never did, whether it was the date for D-Day, our U-2 flights over the USSR or the raid to kill Osama.
My father invaded Grenada and didn’t tell Congress in advance. He even forgot to tip off his buddy Margaret Thatcher, whose airspace had to be crossed by our warplanes.
The most ridiculous complaint of the week made by people on our side of the political fence was their reaction to Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Oscars broadcast Sunday night.
They acted like it was an impeachable offense. But the first lady handing out a best-picture award at an Oscar ceremony is not something Republicans should waste a second of their time on.
It’s not new and not a Democrat thing. On Jan. 20, 1985, Ronald Reagan — who, if I recall, was a Republican — performed the opening coin toss for the Super Bowl game via television from the White House.
The first lady’s appearance at the Oscars was something my father and my mother — his first wife, Academy Award-winning actress Jane Wyman — would have applauded, not booed.
It’s time for Republicans and conservatives to get serious. The country is burning down like ancient Rome, but we’re wasting our time and energy attacking Democrats for petty or nonexistent crimes that do nothing but hike TV ratings and give partisan bloggers fresh ammunition to shoot in the air.
It’s time for us to start fighting about the things that really matter. It’s time to come out of the weeds and start concentrating on the stuff that matters to the guy with no job or the business owner with high taxes, not the stupid stuff like Michelle Obama’s “Oscar Moment.”
- Michael Reagan: Mr. Obama Arrogance Isn’t the Answer (conservativeread.com)
- Michael Reagan cites air traffic controller strike: ‘Let the sequester happen’ (twitchy.com)
- Michael Reagan: Relax, my father’s childhood homes are safe from Obama’s library (twitchy.com)
- Michael Reagan: If It Was a GOP President the Headlines Would Be “Republicans Vote to Raise Your Taxes” (Video) (thegatewaypundit.com)
- Michael Reagan to keynote county GOP Lincoln Day dinner (sj-r.com)
- Michael Reagan: Waiting for the Sequel (conservativeread.com)
- Michael Reagan: Republicans need leader to follow (naplesnews.com)
- Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – ” Waiting for the Sequel (mbcalyn.com)
- Ronald Reagan by Michael Schaller (collectedmiscellany.com)
- Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – ” Junk Laws (mbcalyn.com)
FEBRUARY 7, 2013
U.S. CANCELS REGULAR DRONE STRIKES ON SATURDAYS
POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Citing budgetary concerns, the United States announced today that it would discontinue regular Saturday drone strikes on U.S. citizens, beginning in 2014.
In announcing the decision, the White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the cutback in drone service was “bound to be controversial.” “In the United States, we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to target our citizens with drone strikes, Monday through Saturday, regardless of the weather,” he said. “We know that losing Saturday drone service is going to take some getting used to.”
But the move to cut back drone service drew sharp criticism from a longtime defender of the program, the former Vice-President Dick Cheney. “Like most Americans, I thought I’d never see the day when drones just up and take Saturdays off,” he said. “This would never be happening if I were still President.”
As if to silence critics, Mr. Carney assured reporters that drones could “still get the job done” Monday through Friday, and reminded U.S. citizens to update the government on any change of address so the drones would know where to reach them.
- Gun Sales Soar on Photo of Armed Obama : The New Yorker (mbcalyn.com)
- Editorial: White House drone strike policy evades detection (grumpyelder.com)
- White House, Congress square off over Justice Dept. rules for drone strikes (thehill.com)
- You: Obama agrees to release legal memos on Awlaki drone strike (latimes.com)
- White House: Congress to get classified drone info (usnews.nbcnews.com)
- Tehran Airs Images Allegedly Taken From U.S. Drone (rferl.org)
- Lawmakers to get drone report before CIA hearing (sacbee.com)
- Obama To Release Classified Document On Drone Killings To Congress (ibtimes.com)
- White House: Drone Strikes on American Citizens ‘Legal, Ethical and Wise’ (nationalreview.com)
- At Brennan hearing, U.S. drone policy to be put in spotlight (cbsnews.com)
JANUARY 23, 2013
OBAMA URGED TO RESIGN OVER BEYONCÉ SCANDAL
POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – A rising chorus of congressional Republicans are calling on President Obama to acknowledge that the pop singer Beyoncé lip-synched during his inaugural festivities on Monday and resign from office, effective immediately.
“By lip-synching the national anthem, Beyoncé has cast a dark cloud over the President’s second term,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). “The only way President Obama can remove that cloud is by resigning from office at once.”
While many in the media have blamed Beyoncé for the lip-synching controversy, Mr. Paul said, “We must remember that this happened on President Obama’s watch.”
Mr. Paul said that the White House’s refusal to comment on the Beyoncé crisis “only serves the argument that this President has something to hide.”
“If Beyoncé lip-synched the national anthem, how do we know President Obama didn’t lip-sync his oath of office?” he said. “If that’s the case, he’s not legally President. But just to be on the safe side, he should resign anyway.”
Mr. Paul also blasted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her testimony on Benghazi before the Senate today: “Her tactic of answering each and every question we asked her didn’t fool anyone.”
- Obama Urged to Resign Over Beyonce Scandal : The New Yorker (newyorker.com)
- You Can’t Be Serious: GOP Wankster Wants President Obama To Resign Over Beyoncé Lip Sync Scandal? (bossip.com)
- Beyoncé lip-synching scandal,Obama urged to resign (mosvinbami.com)
- Seriously? GOP Demands Obama Resign After Beyonce’s Alleged Lip-Synching (myhoustonmajic.com)
- Seriously? GOP Demands Obama Resign After Beyonce’s Alleged Lip-Synching (woldcnews.com)
- Seriously? GOP Demands Obama Resign After Beyonce’s Alleged Lip-Synching (newsone.com)
- President Obama Is Not Being Asked To Resign Over Beyonce’ Incident (wreg.com)
- Is Rand Paul Really Urging Obama To Resign Over BeyoncĂŠ Scandal? Twitter Users Fall For New Yorker Magazineâs Joke (sfluxe.com)
- Seriously? GOP Demands Obama Resign After Beyonce’s Alleged Lip-Synching (newstalkcleveland.com)
- President Obama Being Urged To Resign… Because Beyonce Lip Synced? (soletschat.net)
JANUARY 13, 2013
OBAMA FURIOUS HE WASTED WEEK POSING FOR COIN
POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Barack Obama was “totally furious” he spent a week of his time posing for a trillion-dollar platinum coin that would never be minted, a White House source confirmed today.
“The President is a super-busy man, so it’s understandable that he’d be mad,” the source said. “It’s not like he has time to sit still for hours on end for a coin that’s not going to happen.”
Mr. Obama devoted much of last week to posing for the trillion-dollar coin on the assurances of outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who told Mr. Obama that the coin had “a way better than fifty percent chance” of being minted.
Based on Mr. Geithner’s advice, Mr. Obama carved hours out of his schedule to pose for the ill-fated coin, even cutting short meetings with world leaders such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
But even as he posed for it, Mr. Obama seemed “fidgety and skeptical” that the platinum coin would ever see the light of day.
“He was like, ‘Look, I’ve got things to do. Is this coin really going to happen, because if not, this whole thing is really messed up,’” the source said.
When Mr. Geithner delivered the news to the President that the coin idea had been scrapped, according to the source, “to say that things got ugly would be a massive understatement.”
The coin fiasco behind him, Mr. Obama has now apparently learned his lesson, the source said: “If this coin idea ever comes up again, he’s going to make Biden pose for it.”
- US Will Not Mint Trillion-Dollar Coin in Debt Ceiling Ploy (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Obama Trillion-Dollar Coin Rejected By White House, Must Cut, Default or ‘Violate Constitution’ (princevega.com)
- Can We Avert The Coming Debt Ceiling Crisis With A Magic Coin? (mbcalyn.com)
- “An Inane Idea”: With A Trillion Dollar Coin, President Obama Can Fight Dumb With Silly (mbcalyn.com)
- Treasury: Trillion-dollar coin would not be legal (hosted.ap.org)
- Treasury: No $1 trillion coin (cbsnews.com)
- US Treasury won’t mint platinum coin to avoid debt ceiling (todayonline.com)
- Is a one trillion dollar coin the solution for debt? (reuters.com)
- White House nixes idea for trillion-dollar coin (ktvb.com)
- Obama Administration Rejects Platinum Coin Debt-Ceiling Solution (huffingtonpost.com)
Meet the Genius Behind the Trillion-Dollar Coin and the Plot to Breach the Debt Ceiling | Wired Business | Wired.com
Meet the Genius Behind the Trillion-Dollar Coin and the Plot to Breach the Debt Ceiling
BY RYAN TATE
Photo: Kurtis Garbutt/Flickr
It was a December 2009 Wall Street Journal article that ultimately inspired the Georgia lawyer known online as “Beowulf” to invent the trillion-dollar coin.
The article, “Miles for Nothing,” detailed how clever travelers were buying commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint via credit cards that award frequent flier miles. The Mint would ship the coins for free and the travelers would deposit them at the bank, pay off their cards, and accumulate free miles.
More than six months later, during a wonky online discussion about the debt ceiling, Beowulf thought of the article and, egged on by fellow monetary-system obsessives, came up with his own clever plan to exploit the powers of the U.S. Mint. His idea to issue a single trillion-dollar coin to the U.S. Treasury, thus letting it avoid borrowing and bypass the debt ceiling, is now much discussed among Washington elites, including at the White House, where a spokesman Wednesday wouldn’t rule out the scheme.
It’s been a remarkable journey. The path of the trillion-dollar coin, as Beowulf described it to Wired, began with a “silly question” in a “pointless … online bull session” in the comments section of financier Warren Mosler’s blog. Anonymous supporters helped spread the concept to the comments of other economics blogs and ultimately into posts on such sites. The idea soon attracted attention from more prominent liberal economists like James Galbraith and Paul Krugman, and then from writers like Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein. From there it was a short hop into the center mainstream. NBC’s Chuck Todd hammered a White House spokesman about the coin possibility on Wednesday.
It’s one thing for bloggers to help bring down a senator; it’s quite another to re-engineer all federal spending.
If the president uses such a coin to bypass intransigent Republicans who refuse to raise the debt ceiling, or even if he merely uses the possibility of such as leverage in negotiations, it will underline how ad-hoc online communities, like the anonymous international band of commenters to which Beowulf belonged, are increasingly able to move their ideas from the fringes into the middle of political debate. It’s one thing for bloggers to help bring down a Mississippi senator or to embarrass a presidential frontrunner, as they have in years past; it’s quite another for commenters to re-engineer the funding of the entire federal budget.
Their initial ambitions weren’t nearly so grand, to hear Beowulf tell it. (Though Beowulf’s real name is relatively easy to discover online, he spoke to Wired on the condition that we leave it out of this story.)
“It was really a pointless conversation,” Beowulf says, referring to the discussion that unfolded underneath a post on Mosler’s blog about government debt and the differences between the U.S. and Greek monetary systems. “I think it’s funny something we were chatting about a few years ago is now in the news.”
“It was almost a contingency plan, a silly question… What would happen if the government couldn’t get the debt ceiling raised?”
Ever the lawyer, Beowulf dived into Title 31 of the U.S. Code: “Money and Finance.” That Journalarticle was still rattling around in his head. He was also inspired by ideas from attorney-turned-finance-author Ellen Brown, who in her 2008 book Web of Debt quoted a 1980s-era director of Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing as saying the government could solve its debt problems by printing large coins. He wasn’t talking about circumventing the debt ceiling, which hadn’t yet become a political football, but he may have been on to something.
A comment thread begun nine days after the original post focused on the relationship between the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury and on whether the Fed can legally help the Treasury circumvent the debt ceiling by, for example, overdrafting its account with the Fed.
But Beowulf added a new wrinkle: Why not seize upon the peculiar power of the U.S. Mint to issue platinum coins at the discretion of the Treasury Secretary, an unanticipated side effect of legislation intended to provide for a miniscule trade in commemorative coins?
Beowulf, a leading contributor to the blog Monetary Realism, explained his thinking to us this way: “If you go through the Federal Reserve, you’re borrowing money. If you go through the Mint, you’re making money.” (He hastens to add that the latter is actually more expensive for the government at the moment, but it does have the virtue of getting around a debt ceiling.)
Some of Beowulf’s buddies on Mosler’s blog, whose prodding had helped him come up with the trillion dollar coin idea in the first place, then fanned out to promote the idea. For example, a commenter who goes by Ramanam – Beowulf believes he’s from India – posted the idea within a week to Bill Mitceh’s “bill blog” on Modern Monetary Theory. Another supporter, management consultant Joe Firestone, alsowrote widely about the coin idea, crediting Beowulf.
“[Joe] and Cullen Roche were out there banging the drum for it,” Beowulf says. “You say it was my idea, [but] it was a group of people – it was really a group thing… It’s fascinating that I can have a bull session with people all over the country.”
After one of Firestone’s blog posts about the coin, Beowulf says, left-leaning economist James K. Galraith messaged Firestone about the idea, and shortly thereafter other prominent liberal economists began discussing the coin.
Interestingly, although the coin has been embraced by liberals as a useful political hack and rejected by Republicans as absurd and dangerous, the man who came up with it voted for Mitt Romney. Beowulf says he would have advised the 2012 Republican presidential candidate to use the same trick had he been elected president.
“We’re not real political,” he says of his circle of online pals, who he likens to players in a fantasy football league, but for the monetary system. “It’s like 4chan says – we’re just in it for the – what is it? LOLs? – lulz, lulz.”
Though, when Beowulf stops laughing, he finds the whole notion absurd. “It’s more a disappointment than anything,” he says. “There’s really no reason for a trillion dollar coin, it’s kind of sad that it’s gone this far.”
It may have started as a game, but Beowulf and his pals are poised to inject an important new tactic into oversight of the government’s monetary institutions.
The coin hack even surprised and impressed former U.S. Mint director Philip Diehl, who co-authored the law that enabled the platinum loophole in the first place.
“When I first heard about the idea to mint a trillion-dollar coin, I was very surprised,” says Diehl. “But because I know that law backwards and forwards, I knew immediately that the guy who came up with the idea was right.
“It’s an ingenious use of the law to avoid a ridiculous and irresponsible situation, in which the country would be driven to default.”
(For more from Diehl, see Why Stealing a $1 Trillion Coin Isn’t Worth the Price of a Getaway Van.)
Clever though it may be, the trillion-dollar coin may not be Beowulf’s last monetary parlor trick. He described to us a borrowing scheme involving the Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which could potentially allow ready access to funds totaling “90 percent of infinity.” Congress, you may have met your match.
- Can a $1 trillion coin end debt ceiling crisis? (mbcalyn.com)
- Can We Avert The Coming Debt Ceiling Crisis With A Magic Coin? (mbcalyn.com)
- Judge Napolitano Weighs in on the Trillion Dollar Coin Proposal: ‘It Would Be Economically Catastrophic’ (foxnewsinsider.com)
- Why #MintTheCoin Is A Good Strategy (crooksandliars.com)
- Trillion-dollar coin politically alluring (upi.com)
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Obama Makes Last-Minute Fiscal Appeal as Time Grows Short
By Margaret Talev - Dec 30, 2012
President Barack Obama made a last- minute appeal for compromise as three senators said the chances were greater than 50-50 for a deal to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
In an interview broadcast today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama warned of “an adverse reaction in the markets” if Congress doesn’t act.
Republicans “say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected,” Obama said, adding that his offers to Republicans have been “so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me.”
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, called Obama’s comments “ironic, as a recurring theme of our negotiations was his unwillingness to agree to anything that would require him to stand up to his own party.”
The president’s interview with NBC was taped yesterday at the White House. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate negotiators from both parties were seeking compromise legislation to prevent at least some of the tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said the prospects for a deal before Jan. 1 are “exceedingly good.” They will include tax increases on upper-income Americans, he said, and represent a “political victory to the president.”
“Hats off to the president, he won,” Graham said. “He stood his ground. He’s going to get tax rate increases — maybe not $250,000, but upper-income Americans.”
Graham said the “sad news for the country” is that any deal now won’t address debt and will guarantee a fresh fight over deficit reduction when the debt ceiling debate resurfaces early next year. He called on Republicans to have the “courage of our convictions.”
Senators Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, assessed the odds of a deal before Jan. 1 at better than 50-50. “I think a little higher than that,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week,” while Kyl said, “I don’t disagree with Chuck.”
At the same time, Schumer said there are “no breakthroughs yet” by bipartisan negotiators in the Senate. Kyl said there is a “significant effort” by “responsible people on both sides of the aisle” because “if we are not able to reach an agreement, it will be dire.”
Not all senators were as optimistic. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said, “There’s still a chasm here,” though he declined to say that a deal is impossible. Senator Tom Coburn, on the same program, said the two sides are “far apart.”
Obama said on NBC that “if all else fails,” when a new Congress convenes on Jan. 3 “the first bill that will be introduced on the floor will be to cut taxes on middle-class families.”
Asked about the immediate economic impact of going over the fiscal cliff — a term used by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in February — the president said, “It’s hard to speculate on the markets, but obviously I think business and investors are going to feel more negative about the economy next year.”
If Americans’ taxes rise and consumer spending is depressed, Obama said, “then obviously that’s going to have an adverse reaction in the markets.”
Markets dropped last week as the stalemate continued. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX)fell for a fifth day on Dec. 28, by 1.1 percent to 1,402.45 at the 4 p.m. close in New York. The benchmark Treasury 10-year yield declined four basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, to 1.7 percent at 5 p.m. in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, plan to brief party members in closed-door caucuses this afternoon on the status of private weekend talks between their staffs.
Boehner has called the House into session at 2 p.m. Washington time to be ready for possible action on the budget dispute. The Senate convenes at 1 p.m.
Whether to extend all tax cuts or only tax cuts on incomes up to $250,000 has been a key sticking point, with Republicans resisting raising wealthier earners’ taxes. When asked what income levels House and Senate Republicans are likely to approve as the cutoff for tax-cut extensions, Graham said on Fox that Republicans know “the votes are there for $400,000 or $500,000” among Democrats.
Schumer said on ABC that there is bipartisan agreement to patch the alternative minimum tax, adjust the Medicare payment for doctors and extend some business and middle-class taxes, while disagreements remain over how far to extend tax cuts on incomes above $250,000, extending unemployment benefits and using revenue increases to pay down automatic spending cuts, among other provisions.
In the event the Senate can’t reach a compromise on all of those issues, Obama has asked Reid to ready a bare-bones bill for a vote by Dec. 31 that extends unemployment benefits and tax cuts on family incomes up to $250,000.
In that scenario, Obama said, “Republicans will have to decide if they’re going to block it, which will mean that middle-class taxes do go up.” Any compromise also needs approval by theHouse of Representatives.
Obama said if Republicans agree to raise taxes on wealthy Americans, the revenue would be “sufficient to turn off” the sequester provisions of the so-called fiscal cliff, stopping automatic military spending cuts from going into effect — a sticking point for many Republicans.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had discussed the impact of the spending cuts on the U.S. military with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last night and was told that it would mean 800,000 layoff notices at the beginning of the year. The result would be destroying “the finest military in the world at the time we need it the most,” he said.
Tax policy remains the most stubborn divide in the dispute.
Republicans have resisted rate increases for any income level, maintaining that such a move would hurt the economy and hinder job creation – especially by businesses that pay their taxes on their owners’ individual returns.
While the economy has shown resilience, politicians are wary of reactions by the public, employers and the markets if a deal isn’t reached by the Jan. 1 deadline.
Failure to address the expiring tax breaks, enacted under President George W. Bush, would mean heavier burdens on taxpayers during the coming filing season, on their regular paychecks and their 2013 tax bills. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington estimates the average effect per taxpayer at $3,446 for 2013 if Congress does nothing.
Any last-minute deal wasn’t expected to address a debt ceiling agreement, making the limit on U.S. borrowing authority the next major issue forcing a fiscal debate. The government will hit the $16.4 trillion limit tomorrow, and the Treasury Department will begin using so-called extraordinary measures to finance about $200 billion of deficits into 2013. That would typically be enough to last about two months.
- Obama Makes Last-Minute Fiscal Appeal as Time Grows Short (bloomberg.com)
- Negotiators Seek US Budget Deal With Deadline Two Days Off – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Immigration, gun violence top Obama’s agenda (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Negotiators Seek US Budget Deal With Deadline Two Days Off – Businessweek (businessweek.com)
- Obama blames GOP for ‘fiscal cliff’ brinksmanship (latimes.com)
- Is Obama Using Chuck Hagel to Bait Republicans? – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Obama to weigh in on fiscal cliff as hours dwindle on compromise (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Obama levels attacks on GOP for no fiscal cliff deal (tv.msnbc.com)
- Fiscal cliff deadline hangs heavy as Obama makes final plea to Congress (guardian.co.uk)
- Fiscal cliff: Barack Obama to meet congressional leaders for last-minute talks (telegraph.co.uk)