Plan B

Great post from Yglesias on Boehner’s “Plan B” budget proposal:

John Boehner’s “Plan B” alternative to negotiating with Barack Obama over a fiscal cliff alternative was supposed to be a simple measure to shift the pressure points—extend Bush tax rates for all income below $1 million, create a new millionaire’s bracket that uses the old Clinton marginal rate.

But lots of House conservatives didn’t love that idea, so now Plan B also tries to roll back Dodd-Frank bank regulation reforms and turn us back to Bush-era financial regulation policy. It also cuts food stamps, Medicaid spending, and some Affordable Care Act provisions. In other words, it’s a whole conservative Christmas tree.

There’s nothing wrong with that. If the point of the legislation is to outline a conservative alternative to Obama’s position, they may as well stuff it with things conservatives like. But its worth examining the ornaments. When John Boehner needs to add spending cuts to a deficit reduction bill to make his most conservative members happy, they don’t want to reindex Social Security benefits. They don’t want to monkey with the Medicare eligibility age. That’s not the stuff that gets them jazzed up. Taking food out of the mouths of hungry children, by contrast, is something they’re excited about. They’re eager to reduce regulation on banks and cut back on poor people’s health care. Cutting spending on the eldelry is something they’ll maybe consider as part of a deal with Obama. Cutting spending on the poor is their idea of Christmas.  [emphases mine]

Chart of the day

Charles Blow brings the data in a major way to the issue of guns:

This table shows how shamefully we measure up against other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the O.E.C.D. countries that the World Bank groups as “high income,” America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita and the highest rate of deaths due to assault. In fact, America has more homicides by gun than all of the other high-income O.E.C.D. countries combined.

My tax increase?

Hey, how about a political post about something other than guns.  Looks like Obama is going to raise my taxes!  And I had no idea.  No, the Greene household income did not just unexpectedly top $250K (I wish).  Turns out we’ll likely be done in by one of the Obamacare taxes I didn’t actually know about.  Sarah Kliff summarized three of the tax changes yesterday, including this one:

Last but not least, we have the smallest revenue raiser, which changes who can deduct medical expenses in their tax filings. Up until now, anyone who spent more than 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income on health care could claim that amount as a deduction; spend 7.4 percent, however, and you’re out of luck.

That threshold will rise to 10 percent on Jan. 1.

Yikes!  So anybody who typically spends more than 7.5% but less than 10% on medical expenses gets screwed.  That’s me!  So much for no tax increases on anybody making less than $200K.  As long as he’s not truly standing by that, one tax increase we should totally have is raising the ceiling on taxable income for Social Security.  This is currently capped at $110,000 (and indexed for inflation).  Raise that cap another $10 or $20K or so and that’s presumably a nice revenue increase.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not that bitter about this, but this does not seem like the best way to raise revenue as people who are spending that great a portion of their income on health expenses are, on average, very likely to be making well less than $250K.  I’d really like to know what the thinking on this is.


Photo of the day

Absolutely amazing set of images in Phil Plait’s Best Astronomy images of the year.  I’m going to go with my two favorites:


Icy Aurora

On March 28, 2012, photographer Helge Mortensen was in Tromso, Norway on a mission to capture the aurora borealis, the northern lights. He succeeded magnificently, taking this beautiful shot of the eerily-glowing green lights over the icy landscape. You can see the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and the Pleaides cluster in the picture as the particles from the solar wind slam into Earth’s atmosphere, lighting up atoms of oxygen and nitrogen. I also like the water flowing in the bottom part of the shot; in the 10-second exposure it forms a soft, smooth surface. By coincidence, one part of it forms a pattern remarkably like a face, an aquatic Shroud of Turin. Can you spot it?

Rotating Gas Cloud

IC1396 is a huge cloud of gas and dust, a star-forming factory 100 light years across. Massive, hot, young stars in the center have blown an enormous cavity in the center of the nebula, their fierce stellar winds and blasting ultraviolet light eating the cloud away from the inside out. J-P Metsävainio is a Finnish astrophotographer who took several images of this sprawling cloud, broke them up into layers, made a computer surface model of the structure, then remapped it all into different frames seen from different angles. The finished product is this jaw-dropping three-dimensional animation. I’ll note this is an approximation to the real structure of the nebula, an educated guess. But it gives an incredible feel to the object and a real sense of what it must really be like. (Image credit: J-P Metsävainio).

Yes, the NRA is evil

The NRA is opposed to basically any regulation of guns whatsoever.  Including the various obvious steps (with strong public support) Obama has proposed of limiting magazine size and closing the private sale loophole.  In a nice post about the gun industry, Ezra gives us this disturbing tidbit:

Still, the NRA and gun manufacturers often disagree on key issues. And, when they do, the NRA usually wins. Here’s a fascinating anecdote from Jarrett Murphy:

When Smith & Wesson struck a deal with the Clinton administration in 2000, agreeing to a long list of changes to its products and business practices—including limiting the size of magazines for its semi-automatic weapons and avoiding dealers who sold a disproportionate number of guns later used in crimes—the gun lobby howled. It led a boycott of Smith & Wesson that nearly killed the company; in a span of just two years, the number of guns manufactured by Smith & Wesson fell by 44 percent. “They just beat the crap out of Smith & Wesson for a while, then let them back in,” says Diaz. Colt Firearms and Sturm, Ruger have been similarly punished for crimes against the Second Amendment.

Still, these spats are rare. By and large, the NRA has managed to fend off restrictions on guns for years — there hasn’t been a gun-control bill pass Congress since 1999. And that’s been good for business.

Unreal.  Smith & Wesson actually tries to be a socially responsible company and gets killed by the NRA for it.  Truly a force for evil.

Kids killed by guns

Mike from Canada sent me a link to this Children’s Defense Fund study about all the kids killed by guns.  Apparently, we only seem to care about this when 20 kids die at once at the hands of a maniac.  But sadly, day in and day out kids are killed by guns in absolutely appalling numbers and nobody seems to care.  From the study overview:

In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years.n The 5,740 children and teens killed by guns in 2008 and 2009:
• Would fill more than 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each;
• Was greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan (5,013).
• The number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement   officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48)…
•The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States. The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations.

What the hell is wrong with America?  Totally unacceptable.  There’s a Jeremiah Wright quote I’m thinking is appropriate here.  Of course, we wouldn’t  want to do anything to limit these deaths that might infringe on somebody’s right to (clearly, in many case not at all safely) own a gun.

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