The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
The daughter of Russian Jewish parents achieved some notoriety in the mid-1990s with her memoir, "The Only Woman in the Room.” It chronicled the unlikely role of a 22-year-old woman crafting Japan's post-war constitution. The team's only female member was entrusted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to draft its women's-right section.READ MORE
One of the bright spots in the fiscal-cliff deal is its one-year extension of the federal production tax credit for wind power.
Wind farm developers had been working like mad to finish installations by Dec. 31 to take advantage of the 2.2-cent credit for every kilowatt hour they generate in their first 10 years (adding up to about $1 million for every large turbine). Now, they will have another full year, and the credit will apply even to projects that are started but not fully completed by the end of 2013.READ MORE
I'm glad to see Representative Jerrold Nadler lending his support to the idea that President Barack Obama should avert a debt-limit crisis by issuing large-denomination platinum coins, as permitted by 31 USC § 5112.
In case you're not familiar with this idea: In general, the Treasury Department is not allowed to just print money if it feels like it. It must defer to the Federal Reserve's control of the money supply. But there is an exception: Platinum coins may be struck with whatever specifications the Treasury secretary sees fit, including denomination.READ MORE
In the run-up, or slow walk, to the fiscal cliff, credit rating agencies warned that a failure to reach an agreement to avert the automatic, year-end spending cuts and tax increases would put the nation's sovereign credit rating at risk. Standard & Poor's had already downgraded the U.S. long-term debt rating to AA+ from AAA on Aug. 5, 2011, during the debate over the debt-ceiling.
U.S. lawmakers heard the words but missed the big picture. S&P's rationale for the downgrade at that time was twofold: first, the risk of default from a failure to raise the debt ceiling; and second, the receding likelihood that Congress and the Barack Obama administration would agree upon "a credible, medium-term fiscal consolidation plan in the foreseeable future."READ MORE
Republicans, we know, are angry. But there are different kinds of anger: It can be productive, clarifying and aimed cleanly at a deserving target. Or it can be, well, none of those things.READ MORE
Should the federal minimum wage go up by more than $2?
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has proposed that it climb to $9.80 over the next two years, having stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Harkin's proposal would give a minimum-wage worker the greatest purchasing power he or she has seen since the late 1960s. Harkin intends to submit legislation in the next Congress.READ MORE
As I suggested likely in these pages, Congress and President Barack Obama managed to find a way to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff with a good enough deal to raise some new tax revenue but avoid a massive tax rate increase as well as automatic spending cuts. What they didn’t do was create a new form of bipartisan political interaction that gives reason to be optimistic about how they will address the debt limit and government spending decisions that loom in just a few weeks.
While lawmakers can be proud that they exceeded the expectations of many by not allowing a massive growth shock, the real story of the fiscal cliff is one of opportunity cost. President Obama and Speaker John Boehner had a chance to set in motion a new form of bipartisan cooperation. Even if they failed to agree to the larger framework deal that keeps escaping them, it would have been a far better sign for the future if the cliff deal had been brokered directly by the two people in Washington with real power. Instead, it was left to their respective surrogate and colleague -- Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- to broker a last-minute deal.READ MORE
Who were these people, gathered on the afternoon of New Year's Eve to fete the president as a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was hanging in the balance?
They were "middle-class Americans" who had tweeted their way to a staged White House event, according to Politico. Here were folks who had responded to President Barack Obama's catchy Twitter hashtag, #my2k, to tell him what a $2,000 tax increase would mean to them. Not a bad deal for 140 characters or less!READ MORE
Ramesh Ponnuru & Margaret Carlson
This is part of a continuing dialogue between Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru about Washington politics.
Ramesh: One odd feature of this deal, Margaret, illustrates why Republicans prefer to deal with Vice President Joe Biden over President Barack Obama -- beyond the latter's tendency to waste negotiating time lecturing them.READ MORE
(This post has been updated to reflect the House vote on the fiscal-cliff package.)
It was a nail-biter, but almost no one expected otherwise. Congress on Jan. 1 finally voted to avoid most of the $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that threatened to send the U.S. economy into the Dumpster. Technically, the U.S. went over the fiscal cliff. But, like in the Road Runner cartoons (an apt metaphor in more ways than one), lawmakers stopped the anvil from crushing us in midfall.READ MORE
I wrote last week about why House Republicans engage in behavior that is collectively idiotic but individually rational. They're at it again today. With a fiscal cliff compromise bill having passed the Senate early this morning by a vote of 89-8, House Republicans are now sending strong signals that they won’t go along.
Many House Republicans are saying they want to amend the Senate bill to add spending cuts. But it is hard to see how any amended bill would pass the House. Democrats are sure to prefer passing the Senate bill unamended to amending it with spending cuts that move it farther to the right. They also won’t like House Republicans’ power play. So, an amended bill is unlikely to get any Democratic votes in the House.READ MORE
It's all over, as they say, but the shouting. President Barack Obama's jocular mood gave it away. In New Year's Eve remarks to the nation about the state of negotiations over a deficit-reduction deal, the president said an agreement was in sight, "but it's not done."
Behind the scenes, though, aides circulated the key points of a pending deal that Senate Republican leaders had tentatively agreed to, having brought Vice President Joe Biden into rescue the talks on Sunday evening.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
Not too long ago, political analysts assumed the Republicans had a clear advantage in the Electoral College, the system according to which each state, based on population, is given electors that in almost all cases are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. Today, it's the Democrats who have the edge.
Start by looking at the past seven presidential elections, three won by Republicans, four by Democrats. Then put most states that went for one party in five of these seven elections into the red column for Republican, blue for Democrat and purple or toss-up for the others.READ MORE
After weeks of on-again, off-again talks and a lot of political posturing, the fiscal-cliff negotiations are coming to an anticlimactic finish. It would have been a lot easier, and certainly faster, had President Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, played a round of "rock, scissors, paper" in the Oval Office.
When the Senate votes, supposedly within the next 24 hours, it will likely be on a tiny remnant of what both parties had agreed was their original goal: a $4 trillion grand bargain to reduce the national debt by overhauling entitlements and the tax code.READ MORE
Before the 23-year-old student gang-raped and bludgeoned on a New Delhi bus died in a Singapore hospital, her brain and lungs bashed, her intestines ripped out of her body, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh swore the country would bring her attackers to justice.
Six men are in custody. But it will be a shame if that's all that comes of the atrocity. Seeking to calm violent demonstrations in the Indian capital, Singh said his government would review punishments for rape and related crimes against women. Yet it hardly matters what laws are on the books if rapists have little reason to fear prosecution.READ MORE
You think going over the fiscal cliff might be a big deal? Wait until you get a dose of the dairy cliff.
Sad to say it but the arrival of 2013 may bring a doubling in the price of milk to as much as $6 to $8 a gallon, up from about $3.75. For this, you can thank Congress, which seems to have lost the ability to carry out its most basic functions, starting with passing legislation.READ MORE
Buzzfeed has one of many pieces about anonymous Republicans bemoaning their party's strategic incompetence, this time about the debt ceiling deal. They report:
It’s difficult to find a Republican operative who is willing to say on the record that going over the fiscal cliff next Tuesday is a good idea. Provoking a crisis is bad politics: Republicans are resigned to taking the blame. And it’s bad for their policy agenda: They will likely be cornered into a broader tax hike than the best deal they could get from President Barack Obama today, and with none of the spending cuts that might now be on the table.READ MORE
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel may not be the best candidate to lead the Pentagon. He's an idiosyncratic figure, which is the source of both his appeal and various concerns about him. Here is National Review editor Rich Lowry, writing in Politico, trying to understand Obama's motive in floating Hagel's name for secretary of defense:
It’s not clear what draws Obama to Hagel. Maybe it’s the superciliousness. Or maybe the gesture toward bipartisanship his nomination would supposedly represent. Or maybe he’s just too easily impressed.READ MORE
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and the incoming chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is starting off his tenure with a deeply misguided opinion on energy policy: He believes the federal government should direct trade in energy according to its determination of the national interest.
More specifically, Wyden has become the public face of protectionism on exports of liquefied natural gas.READ MORE