64 Senators Who Voted To Increase The National Debt By The Trillions

[Note: my headline is hyperbolic in that some of the Senators were not in office in December. But I think we can confidently state that everyone of them would have voted for the The Deal, that cut taxes that increased the debt by trillions, and surely will again.] Via Atrios and Steve Benen, 64 Senators have redefined chutzpah:

Dear President Obama:

As the Administration continues to work with Congressional leadership regarding our current budget situation, we write to inform you that we believe comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative and to ask you to support a broad approach to solving the problem.

[. . . W]e urge you to engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit reduction package. Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform.

(Emphasis supplied.) More . . .

Tax REFORM???? Really? Ezra Klein rightly notes the absurdity of a supermajority of Senators acting as if they have nothing to say on this, but more striking to me is Democrats signing on to this document that expressly calls for "spending cuts" and "entitlement changes" but can not say the words "tax increases."

There no longer is a Democratic Party.

Speaking for me only

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    I suppose it would depend on what they (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 08:58:06 AM EST
    mean by "tax reform."

    How about spending "reform" (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:00:58 AM EST

    Heh! (none / 0) (#3)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:07:13 AM EST
    My idea of tax reform.  Reverse the policies of the Bush administration by letting his tax policies revert back to the Clinton structure.  Put a Wall Street transaction tax on speculation.  Slap a big tax on oil imports to incentivize domestic production and innovation.  The last two could be viewed as a cigarette tax.  If you collect them, fine.  It helps pay for government.  If you don't as people find a way to avoid them, society benefits even more.

    I would also create a flat tax for payroll.  Lift the cap on SS and add the 7.1% payroll tax on top of dividends and capital gains income.  That way, no matter how much you make or in what form your income is reported, everyone pays the same payroll tax rate - 7.1% (or whatever it is).


    I believe (none / 0) (#23)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:47:11 PM EST
    it's 6.2%

    Levying FICA withholding on capital gains and interest would solve SS financing probably forever.

    Medicare also should be withheld from capital gains and dividends.

    Don't hold your breath.  It makes too much sense and the GOP will resist with every possible maneuver. Their aim is to kill not preserve.


    I think the 6.2% is the employees portion (none / 0) (#35)
    by Buckeye on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:35:57 AM EST
    of SS.  Total FICA I think (I just looked it up) is 7.65% (includes employees portion of medicare - 1.45%).

    Social Security (none / 0) (#42)
    by cal1942 on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:57:15 PM EST
    is 6.2%.  Employer matches.

    I'm referring to Social Security.


    For example, I doubt John Kerry (who (none / 0) (#4)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:11:23 AM EST
    signed this) thinks tax reform means the same thing as Jim Demint (who did not sign it).

    the 32 GOP Senators (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:21:11 AM EST
    agree with Jim DeMint on "tax reform" AND "spending cuts."

    Why did John Kerry sign this letter?


    ? Don't know. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:41:04 AM EST
    Not saying you were wrong, I just think it is interesting that Rand Paul (a hard core teapartier) did not sign this document but Feinstien did.  If this was a document asking for tax reform similar to the Simpson Bowles commission that would make the Bush tax cuts permanent, eliminate tax deductions for mortgage interest expense, health care, etc. and use nearly all the incremental receipts to pay for reducing the top marginal and corporate tax rates, I would think he and Demint would have been all over it but Al Franken would not have gone anywhere near it (but he signed it).  

    I opened my newspaper this morning (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:47:19 AM EST
    to see this op-ed written by Ben Cardin, my Senator and one of the 64 Senators who signed that letter; I pretty much wanted to scream the entire time I was reading it, and am more disappointed than I can express with someone for whom I have had a lot of respect during his many years of service in Maryland, and since 2008, in the US Senate.

    Some selected excerpts:

    These are difficult times for our economy, and Americans want Congress to act now to develop a credible budget plan that will ensure our nation's future growth and prosperity. It's not an easy task, but it is one around which all of us -- Democrats, Republicans, independents -- must come together as a nation if we are going to deal with our budget deficit.

    Recently, I gave a speech on the U.S. Senate floor outlining what I believe it will take to get control of our deficit while also ensuring our economic recovery and future prosperity. We did this before in the 1990s, under President Bill Clinton, and we can do it again. But we must face facts: A credible budget plan involves cuts to military and domestic spending, control of entitlement spending and reform of our tax code.


    While I don't agree with all the recommendations from the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, I believe it took the right approach and can serve as a model for how we can control our budget deficit. The bipartisan commission recognizes that we cannot balance the budget by cutting domestic spending alone. Instead, we need a comprehensive solution that looks at all spending -- including entitlements and defense -- along with revenues.


    As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have urged my colleagues to consider a progressive, consumption-based tax, one that is a fairer, more efficient way to raise revenue. Such a tax would replace some existing income taxes -- for example, corporate income taxes and income taxes on those whose incomes are below a certain level -- while simplifying and lowering others. And it would not have the loopholes, shelters or special provisions that riddle our current income tax system.

    The beauty of a consumption tax is that we can decide how much revenue we need and adjust it accordingly. It's progressivity lies in the fact that it can be structured to ensure that those who are low income -- and who currently do not pay income taxes -- are exempt from consumption taxes.

    Finally, a consumption tax helps American businesses in a global economy. Because most other developed nations rely on a consumption tax, U.S. manufacturers are penalized because of our corporate income tax. A consumption tax would improve our international competitiveness by putting American producers on a level playing field with foreign manufacturers.

    Consumption tax?  Argh.

    I thought Ben was smarter than this, I really did.  To read this op ed (and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Cardin isn't the only one of these 64 Senators who has had an op-ed published today), you would think austerity is the answer to our prayers.  Who needs a jobs program when all you have to do is cut spending, make sure the tax burden on the wealthy and business is reduced, and - voila! - problems solved.

    One thing's for sure: this is a campaign now, they are selling this hard - with no real specifics, which is always worrisome.

    I think the fix is in; let's make sure we thank all these fine Democrats for coming together to make sure we end up with Republican policies, shall we?

    Argh - Double Argh (none / 0) (#24)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:05:22 PM EST
    I wanna see the plan for establishing a "fair" consumption tax.  Replacing income tax with any kind of Rube Goldberg type consumption tax would allow vast amounts of wealth to go tax free and free to leave the country in search of maximum returns.

    And fooling around with "entitlements" is anything but fair.  A polite way of saying cut Social Security, which is NOT an entitlement, but rather paid for social insurance.

    Frightening that it comes from a Democrat, it means we're without protection from the ravenous right and there's no consolation that Cardin isn't the only Democrat singing this tune.

    If these people set out to deliberately destroy the country they couldn't do it any more efficiently than with the half-a$$ed ideas we see coming from the Village.

    I swear that inside the Beltway is a toxic zone that destroys morals and brain cells.


    Al Franken (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by eric on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:03:35 AM EST
    signed and also Tom Harkin?  Also, as mentioned above, John Kerry.  This is odd.

    Also important I think is who did not sign. (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:19:49 AM EST
    Rand Paul or Jim Demint?  I wonder if they did not want to be associated with this letter based on the discussions taking place with the gang of 64.  I know Coburn has stated several times he is willing to make tough decisions for deficit reduction and does not care about reelection.  Graham has been willing to compromise in the past.

    I think we should at least wait and see how the discussions go and what each party means by tax and spending reform before we completely write off the Democratic party.


    Yeah (5.00 / 0) (#25)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:08:57 PM EST
    "tough decisions" that will destroy the middle class but will leave he and his crowd fat.

    Next we'll hear ... 'this is really hurting me more than it is you'


    About waiting a bit (none / 0) (#14)
    by christinep on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 12:47:52 PM EST
    Agree, buckeye. That we might hear the positions a bit seems sensible.  Not that I completely accept an approach just because someone I like or respect has proposed said approach; but, when people whose positions over the years have been shown to be reasonable, honorable, & fairly liberal (towit: Harkin, Franken, Cardin, Kerry, Murray, etc.) my inclination is to look at it more closely & to afford an opening benefit-of-the-doubt. Because: If I were to turn on/loose my respect for/be deeply upset with anyone who occasionally thought differently than myself...well, that would probably leave me and everyone else quite isolated.

    i note (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:18:20 AM EST
    the lack of any mention of job creation, or of any type of stimulous thereof. i guess people being employed, and thus paying taxes, bears no relation whatever to the budget.

    all those economics classes were apparently wasted hours of my time.

    Face it, austerity is in our near future (none / 0) (#11)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:22:10 AM EST
    whether we like it or not.  Right or wrong, keynesianism, liquidity trap, zero bound economics, etc. has been rejected by our government and voters.  

    Obama had two giant opportunities to move good policies and blew both of them: the mandate and historic majorities in early 2009 right after election day; when the Bush tax cuts were set to sunset.


    Rejected by voters? (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Dadler on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 12:23:30 PM EST
    I'd have to disagree with that.  

    I'd suggest Obama was elected for precisely that purpose (or at least the vast majority of those who voted for him believed so), to implement such policies that benefit the largest segments of the population -- middle class and down.

    Bait and switch is the de-facto state of electoral politics in this nation.  Talk a good game, then deliver the goods/bads for your monied supporters. Both parties play the same game.  Perhaps more dems suffer conscience pangs, if that much, but the result is the same.


    Voters were sold the Brooklyn Bridge (none / 0) (#17)
    by Buckeye on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 01:46:00 PM EST
    by republicans that Obama's "big government" policies are bankrupting the country and deepening/lengthening the recession.  They voted accordingly.  They are wrong of course which proves that over the long run, good policy=good politics.

    austerity isn't, by definition, (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:03:54 PM EST
    a bad thing. i can come up with 3 (soon to be 4) major drains on the budget, that can be nipped, quickly and cleanly, shaving nearly 3/4's of a trillion dollars right off the bat:

    1. war in afghanistan.
    2. war in iraq.
    3. war on drugs and the DEA.

    DHS & ATF could go as well, and no one would notice.

    there. i've cleaved the budget, beyond any tea bagger's wildest, wettest, wet dreams. took less than 5 minutes.


    You have to add (none / 0) (#29)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:50:30 PM EST
    the major drain.  Military spending beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We have over 800 foreign military installations and a DOD budget that supports military procurement suitable to fight an industrial power.  We're doing this without an industrial enemy.

    We spend more on our military than all other nations of the world combined.  I'm sure you've heard or read that.

    We are no longer able to be the world's policeman.

    Those cuts of course will not bring tea baggers to orgasm.


    Voters? (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:15:20 PM EST
    Baloney.  Most of the people (read independents and Democrats who didn't show) weren't asking that the federal government rip apart the social fabric.  

    It was the economy that gave us the 2010 results not deficit reduction.

    If a pollster throws out that question people will always say 'sure, reduce the deficit'

    But their primary motivation for casting their votes is never deficit reduction.

    Show me ONE, just one election that turned on deficit reduction.

    Good luck.


    I think nearly 75% of voters believe (none / 0) (#36)
    by Buckeye on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:40:18 AM EST
    the stimulus from Obama was a waste of money.  They also did not like the bailouts.  They also want government's role in the economy to shrink.  In other words, Keynesian methods to help us get through the recession as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible are not politically feasible anymore.  

    The public is wrong for the reasons Krugman has been writing about.  What Obama did was insufficient.  The unintentional consequence is that voters think what Obama did was wrong and did not work, not that it was insufficient.  


    I know (none / 0) (#37)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 10:47:41 AM EST
    but if Obama had done it right he could have changed minds. As it was, he did it halfa**ed and here we are.

    And it wasn't deficit reduction (none / 0) (#41)
    by cal1942 on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:50:24 PM EST
    People were convinced that the recovery act was a waste but only because of GOP propaganda and the fact that unemployment remained high in spite of the act Obama called 'just right.'  Because of continuing high unemployment people thought they saw truth in the propaganda.

    It was the ECONOMY.  It's NEVER deficit reduction. NEVER.


    There no longer is a Democratic Party. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Lora on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:41:41 AM EST
    Hasn't really been one for some time now.

    I love this democratic party (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 06:02:22 PM EST

    I side with pragmatic winners over ideological losers every time.

    In my mind the primary goal of the democratic party isn't enacting a particular type of legislation.  The primary goal of the democratic party in this age of the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh being mainstream is keeping the GOP out of power.


    If the dems do absolutely nothing to further progressive goals but keep the GOP from accomplishing their biggest goals, it's a victory.  Why? Demographics, media power, corporate dollars, etc.

    We simply do not have the leverage to do all of the high minded things that the ideologues demand.

    So I am thrilled with the dems. I'll concede things like the Deal to avoid a President Palin Huckabee/Pawlenty/Romney.

    Heck yeah I will. That's what I voted on democrats to do primarily:

    stop republican wins.  


    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Raskolnikov on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 06:21:10 PM EST
    So much for moving the goalposts, we've just eliminated them?

    You do understand (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:40:05 PM EST
    that the Obama administration is furthering Republican goals.

    Cutting taxes on the rich, crippling Social Security, continuing deregulation, kicking unions in the balls, etc. are REPUBLICAN goals.

    So, by all means let's not elect Republicans but give them what they want anyway.

    Acting like a Republican cost us the House, a strong majority in the Senate and lost State Legislatures and Governors.

    Now look what's happening in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, etc.

    The major blame is in the White House not those powerless 'ideologues' you disdain.

    This Democratic Party, this Obama party has got to stop neutering its own constituencies.


    Confirms my point (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 06:27:06 PM EST
    Thanks for the comment.

    hasn't been a democratic party since (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by Bornagaindem on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 01:04:34 PM EST
    they nominated Obama.

    These idiots think they are where the country  wants to be. What they don't understand is the only thing americans really want is no taxes and all the services , an army a navy an air force , social security , roads for nothing. And they don't like anyone who tells them they can't have this.

    We have no leadership. If there were any democrats they would be on TV every day saying - go to any of your states and see what austerity is doing for you- no more free education, no more roads , stealing the retirement funds of teachers, cops and firemen meanwhile bankers are getting record bonuses again.

    Who are these people?

    We (none / 0) (#27)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:23:33 PM EST
    haven't had real Democrats in control of the Democratic Party since the now defunct DLC was created.

    Unlike the GOP there is no central Democratic Party policy apparatus.  It's just candidates, their consultants and fund raisers.

    The decline of labor unions has hurt the Democratic Party.  Without powerful unions there's no support for liberal candidates/legislation, no central thrust.


    In fairness (none / 0) (#31)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:53:37 PM EST
    the Unions-fractured from liberal support in the 1960s to a large degree when some flipped on things like Civil Rights while others flipped on Vietnam.

    True (none / 0) (#32)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 11:27:49 PM EST
    A good point but the schism wasn't over economics and Meany's support of Vietnam matched party leadership until the 70s.

    When over 20% of the private workforce were still union members the unions were powerful enough to supply the Democratic Party with funds and muscle enough to have influence and keep the party competitive.

    Much has changed since that time.

    The McGovern Commission that ended up separating candidate from party, requiring a vast fortune to run in primaries just for the nomination.  Heavier business involvement in politics in the mid 70s on.

    On and on it goes.  The weakened union movement is only part of the catastrophe but a big part.


    And thats more than a little hyperbolic (none / 0) (#30)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:52:26 PM EST
    One could just as easily say its not a true Democratic party post-1984- that Carter was the last "real Dem", etc.  

    And then (none / 0) (#33)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 11:29:30 PM EST
    many people will say that Carter wasn't a true Dem.

    At which point they lose all credibility with me (none / 0) (#39)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 12:27:36 PM EST
    The man was by far the most liberal (if viewed in total and not just domestically where LBJ and FDR would lap him but lose tons of points due to FP and FP and massive sellouts/abuses of civil rights respectively) President in the last century.

    And that (none / 0) (#40)
    by cal1942 on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:38:51 PM EST
    is simply your opinion.

    The weight we give to various accomplishments and various errors can differ.

    Understanding historic circumstances is important to any evaluation.

    There is no absolute in this area.  People are going to disagree.


    How is this any different than what (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by ruffian on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 01:36:02 PM EST
    Obama himself talked equally vaguely about in the SOTU?

     "Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform."

    Takes a real bold Senate to write a letter asking for what Obama already wants in the first place. And yes, you are a supermajority of the frickin' Senate - why are you respectfully asking for discussion topics?

    God, this stuff drives me nuts.

    Wouldn't it be great (5.00 / 0) (#34)
    by NYShooter on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 04:41:30 AM EST
    if some large news organization prefaced every article, report, and/or discussion with this caveat:

    ["The following piece will consist of the economic problems we're facing, and the solutions available to handle them. In the interest of full disclosure we should add that these problems, and solutions, will come from the point of view of the people who destroyed your economy in the first place. Also, commensurate with our responsibility of relaying the truth about these issues, you should know that both the  problems (how we got here) and the solutions (how to fix them) are so simple a twelve year old could understand them.

    Basically, your elected Representatives, from all political parties, are craven, immoral, duplicitous, sub-human, traitors of humanity, For a lousy few pieces of silver, they have sold out their self-respect, dignity, patriotism, and humanity, and have spit upon their sacred oath of duty to the country we were brought up to love.
    In short, everything you are about to see and/or hear will consist of nothing but big, fat, effen lies."]    

    And that concludes our Prologue. We now present you with this week's broadcast of.....................

    The Senator who dares not speak his name (none / 0) (#19)
    by msobel on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:10:07 PM EST
    Bennet organized the Dems.

    You might just make that point.

    Bankster Pawn

    yaaay.... john kerry.... (none / 0) (#38)
    by CST on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 11:23:03 AM EST
    Thank goodness for the house because the MA senate delegation these days is just terrible.

    John Kerry was always a tool.  But he keeps getting tool-ier.  He must love having Scott Brown instead of Kennedy in there with him.  Kennedy kept him in check to a certain degree.  Scott is providing him with an opening/excuses.