5. The fiscal-cliff fix: Winners and losers


    • Joe Biden — Biden certainly “emerges with enhanced stature from the budget mess,” says The Daily Beast's Kurtz. He was “called off the bench” on Sunday, then “showed a deft hand — and the experience of growing up in [the Senate] — in quickly hammering out a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.” If the 70-year-old vice president “decides to run for Obama’s job in 2016, such performances could more than offset his reputation for shooting from the lip.” Of course if Democrats end up hating the deal, this could actually “bite Biden down the line,” says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. But he clearly ranks among the winners for negotiating the deal and persuading Democrats to support it. The vice president is often underestimated by the political press, but “the ‘Biden as major White House asset’ storyline writes itself” now.
    • The rich and elderly — Obama’s decision to raise the threshold for higher taxes from $250,000 to $450,000 makes for “a big tax cut for all kinds of rich people, not just those with adjusted gross incomes between the two figures,” says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. Because our tax rates are marginal, meaning that only income above $450,000 is taxed at the higher rate, “if you make $600,000 or even $1 million a year you still have a very large share of your income that’s taxed at a lower rate thanks to this deal.” The deal also didn’t have any of the expected cuts to Social Security and other federal retirement security programs, so at least for now, “old people are the winners,” too.


    • John Boehner — "The fiscal cliff talks were cast as a moment for [John] Boehner to cement his legacy as speaker," negotiating a grand bargain that would "set the country on the right financial course through the Republican-controlled House," says Cillizza at The Washington Post. “The exact opposite happened.” The Ohio Republican dropped negotiations with Obama to pass his own “Plan B” — raising taxes on only people earning $1 million a year — but that plan failed to even get a vote, raising questions about “how much — if any — control he had over his fellow House Republicans.” That idea was reinforced when Boehner couldn’t get more than half of his caucus, or even his top lieutenants, to back the final compromise, says Daniel Newhauser at Roll Call. Boehner “now slumps into the 113th Congress with gavel firmly in hand but with scant ability to wield its power.”
    • Hurricane Sandy victims — After the messy fight over the fiscal cliff bill, House GOP leaders canceled a scheduled vote on a supplemental spending bill for areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, mostly in New York and New Jersey. The House Appropriations Committee had even teed up a $60 billion package, matching the Sandy relief bill that passed the Senate last week. “Absent a change of heart, the upshot now is that the Senate bill will die with this Congress on Thursday at noon,” says David Rogers at Politico. “I assume there is as tactical consideration here, that the Republican leadership didn’t want to be anywhere near a big spending bill after the fiasco of their handling the tax debate,”says Rep. Rob Andrews (D.N.J.). “I understand the tactics but there is a real human need here that is being ignored.”

    More winners and losers

    (Source: theweek.com)


  6. Cartoon of the day: Santa flying high 
    MIKE LUCKOVICH © 2012 Creators Syndicate

    More cartoons

    (Source: theweek.com)


  7. Miss Bush? Vote Romney! —Dana Liebelson

    "During Tuesday’s presidential debate, a woman asked Mitt Romney about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: George W. Bush. Specifically, she asked Romney how he differs from the former Republican president. Romney, after trying to deflect the question, said, “President Bush and I are different people, and these are different times.”

    Romney is right about it being different times: When Bush took office in 2000, the U.S. was riding high on a $236 billion budget surplus — and according to the Chicago Tribune, when he left in 2008, the country was $407 billion in the hole. By the end of this year, the annual deficit is expected to reach $1.1 trillion.

    But as Obama rightfully pointed out, when it comes to most policies, Romney and Bush are not so different.

    (Source: theweek.com)


  8. When the Supreme Court ruled to uphold ObamaCare, Mitt Romney responded by vowing to repeal the president’s signature domestic achievement, and to replace it with his own. However, Romney has given few hints of how he would actually address the serious deficiencies in America’s health care system, which has left tens of millions of people without insurance, made medical emergencies the country’s top cause of bankruptcy, and resulted in abysmal infant mortality ratesfor a developed nation, to take just one metric of public health. Romney’s website has few specifics, but his past statements reveal a loose outline of where he stands on the issue, say Trip Gabriel and Robert Pear at The New York Times.

    Here, a guide to what health care would look like under a President Romney:

    • What are Romney’s health care proposals? 
      Romney “would give a tax break to people who buy insurance individually on the open market,” say Gabriel and Pear, so that they “would enjoy the same advantage as workers who get insurance as a benefit at work.” Romney says he would take the federal government out of the equation, and leave it up to the states to figure out how to make health care more affordable. He also supports transforming Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurance program for the poor and the disabled, into a block-grant program, which would see the federal government give the states a lump sum of money with looser requirements on how they spent it.
    • Would these plans work? 
      It depends on what Romney’s health care goals are. A presumably similar tax-credit plan from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 was estimated to increase the number of uninsured. Democrats say turning Medicaid into a block-grant program would only encourage local governments to purge their Medicaid rolls and use the money for other purposes. However, Romney’s ideas “put more emphasis on controlling health costs and less on reducing the ranks of the uninsured, the primary goal of the Obama plan,” say Gabriel and Pear. Without more specifics from Romney, it’s impossible to calculate if his policies would result in lower health costs.
    • What about patients with preexisting conditions? 
      Romney says he would make surethose with preexisting conditions don’t lose their coverage, but opposes a provision in ObamaCare that makes it illegal to deny them coverage. Romney also would not require insurance companies to allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. Those two provisions are among the most popular elements of ObamaCare.
    • Why is he reluctant to put out a plan of his own? 
      Romney “has spent much of the presidential campaign shying away” from the subject,says Kasie Hunt at The Associated Press, because of the health care law he passed as governor in Massachusetts. RomneyCare is very similar to ObamaCare, replete with an individual mandate requiring nearly all citizens to buy health insurance. As a result, any discussion of health care invariably raises uncomfortable questions about why Romney suddenly opposes a mandate. That has left Romney with a “huge void” when it comes to replacing ObamaCare, and his campaign “calculates it can finesse until after the election,” says Albert R. Hunt at Bloomberg.
    • Has RomneyCare created other political problems? 
      Yes. Republicans have seized on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the mandate as a tax to hammer Obama for raising taxes. (Democrats maintain that it is a penalty for failing to buy insurance, not a tax.) However, conflating a mandate with a tax would mean Romney himself raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts. On Monday, Romney’s top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, argued that the mandate is not a tax, straying “wildly from the coordinated comments” of Republicans in Congress, says Michael D. Shear at The New York Times.

  9. On Aug. 1, San Francisco is scheduled to launch a new program, Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos (aka WOOF), that will pay panhandlers to take care of abandoned dogs as long as they pack up their cardboard signs and stop begging on the streets. 

    Under the program, panhandlers will receive $50 to $75 a week to adopt a dog from a shelter. They will receive training sessions, and the city will provide them with “all the dog food, toys, leashes, and veterinary care they need.”

    Proof puppies can fix any problem?