I avoided today’s debate on the simulus package (I shouldn’t have, because real Dems actually spoke, unlike last night, but I had to make an apple pie for mr. ew). But both in last night’s "debate" and the media today, it’s clear Republicans are pushing one meme above all others.

In spite of the fact that this bill was heavily crafted by Susan Collins, has the support of Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter, and probably Olympia Snowe, Republicans claim, it’s not a bipartisan bill. Whereas having Sanctimonious Joe vote with Republicans two years ago qualified as a bipartisan bill, this one doesn’t because, they say, they were locked out of the room where this was crafted. (In reality, a bunch of "moderates" left on their own accord, but truth is not a Republican strong point.)

But that’s not the most offensive part of their claim that this is not a bipartisan bill. AFAIK, Tom Coburn’s amendment remains a part of this bill, which basically prohibits these funds from going to support things like museums and parks.

Tom Fricking Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has contributed to this bill. But that doesn’t qualify it as a bipartisan bill, for these fuckers.

And that’s not all. As Lithium Cola points out, using the work of Haley Edwards, the reason the Senate had to cut education and funds for states and Head Start is because Chuck Grassley insisted on putting the annual patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax in this stimulus package.

Haley Edwards at the Columbia Journalism Review points out a big part of why the Senate version of stimulus bill was more expensive than the House version and so "needed" to be cut back by scrapping projects to build schools and so on. The House version didn’t include the standard annual modification of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the Senate version does.

But why, you might ask, is the Senate package so much more expensive than the House bill?

It’s got much to do with a single $64 billion tax cut benefitting the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans—a fact that was largely buried in reporting about the squabbling over which spending programs to cut.

Haley adds, "that’s one of the reasons why the House’s stimulus measure seemed to be $80 billion dollars cheaper than the Senate’s. It was really only about $30 billion cheaper—after you subtract the $64 billion revenue loss that happens every year when lawmakers curtail the scope of the AMT."

This raises an interesting question. Why is the usual AMT alteration being shoved through by the Senate as part of the stimulus package? Back on January 28 the Wall Street Journal noted:

The Obama administration indicated it would agree to a $69 billion Senate proposal to shield tens of millions of middle-income Americans from the so-called alternative minimum tax, a priority of Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The panel later folded the change into the Senate bill.

Although it is standard in the tradmed to say that the AMT benefits "millions of middle-income Americans," it is to put it mildly stretching things to put it that way. Haley points to a study at the Tax Policy Institute which shows that slashing the AMT increases the incomes of Americans in the top quintile by 1.3%, Americans in the next-highest quintile by .7%, the middle quintile by .1%, and does nothing at all for Americans in the bottom 40% of incomes. 

Chuck Grassley … Chuck Grassley … not as reactionary as Tom Coburn, sure, but last I checked he’s a Republican too. So Grassley is responsible for putting in a benefit for the upper middle class which led to the removal of things that benefit children and cash-strapped states. And most of those cuts were done at the direction of moderate-but-still-solidly Republican Susan Collins.

Tom Coburn, Chuck Grassley, and Susan Collins. They’re the ones responsible for the way this bill looks. 

And fricking Coburn and Grassley won’t even have the decency to vote for their own handiwork. That’s the new definition of "bipartisan": three Republicans screw with a bill, and in the end, only one of them even votes for it.

66 replies
  1. lemondloulou says:

    What’s up with Grassley and the AMT? Can there be THAT many people in Iowa who are affected by the AMT? I guess all it takes is one big fish, though. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would even care about it.

  2. Professor Foland says:

    As I recall, “bipartisanship” became a holy word in the Reagan administration, because Washington needed to “get things done”, and with an R WH and D congress, BP-ship was in fact the only way to get things done. Which is to say: as I recall it, BP-ship started as a means to an end.

    It seems to have become ossified as an end in itself. It’s not actually needed anymore, as the House vote has shown.

    Annd in the Senate, as I’ve said once before: if Republicans want to lay down on the tracks to stop it, Harry Reid should fire the train’s engines and run it right over them.

    • bmaz says:

      if Republicans want to lay down on the tracks to stop it, Harry Reid should fire the train’s engines and run it right over them.

      Thank you Professor. Very well said.

  3. SaltinWound says:

    Is this patch really a benefit for the upper middle class? If this is a benefit, the AMT was a big tax hike, which no one’s ever really copped to. Usually, they just say it’s affected a bunch of people it wasn’t designed to affect and needs to be fixed. I agree there’s no reason the patch should be in this bill.

  4. Leen says:

    Most Americans do not want our government to borrow more money to bail our nation out after 8 years of Bush, Cheney and a Republican controlled congress’s disastrous policies…both foreign and domestic.

    One thing that Pelosi said last week that really got to me is that 19 out of the supposed top 20 economist in our nation have said better start to working on the economy now by supporting this stimulus package otherwise it is only going to get worse…much much worse.

    How can the Obama administration construct a message that encourages all of us to tighten our spending and driving habits yet totally get behind the recovery package. Can we do both?

    • Hmmm says:

      Tightening household spending is anti-recovery in the aggregate. At the same time, not taking on additional debt is pro-healthy-economy in the long run. Stimulus aims to provide capital that can be put into circulation immediately without putting households further into debt.

      But none of that helps the interbank lending freeze, which is what is hamstringing ordinary business growth operation and new consumer credit lending (house, car, and consumer goods secured loans), because that is based on the unknowable-shitpile problem.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        I went to Macy’s today thinking I could get some good deals on sweaters. The place was absolutely barren. I probably ran into ten other shoppers. Really weird.

        Maybe it’s because all of the decent sweaters were overpriced and anything else was crap. And I mean crap. I’d be afraid to wash it with my other clothes.

        • Leen says:

          Second hand stores. Always treasures. Hell China…the U.S. etc could stop producing clothing, plastic shit, cars right this very minute. There are enough material goods on the planet to go around this very minute.


          On the other hand as George Carlin said maybe humans are here to bury themselves in plastic
          George “why are we here…plastic”

  5. Hmmm says:

    …but truth is not a Republican strong point…

    The thing is to get articulate D’s and journos to state that and prove it, specifically in response to the current “monopartisan!” claim. Yes, in the past this would have been impossible, but there is now a real wave of calling Bullshit on the R’s, started by PBO himself what, 2 days ago, and others (notably Rachel Maddow with her great “Bullpucky!” segment Thursday night) are piling on. Let’s help that pushback-on-the-lies movement build.

    And hell yes, if they’ve been stripping other actually job-productive stuff from the bill with claims that they properly belong in the budget bill instead, let’s definitely move the AMT band-aid over there too.

    I hope the conference committee does good work, though today CNN is reporting the conference process has already started informally — which I take as a bad sign, it would have been much much better to get the Senate bill voted first, and then get out the knives. This way the progress of the reconciliation discussion can be influenced by the action in the Senate proper, not good.

    • Leen says:

      that was the line that jumped out at me “truth is not a Republican strong point”

      Damn good one EW

      Hmmm over at Huffington Post a piece about how Geitner
      New Plan to Help Banks Sell Bad Assets


      WASHINGTON — After weeks of internal debate, the Obama administration has settled on a plan to inject billions of dollars in fresh capital into banks and entice investors to purchase their most troubled assets.

      The new financial industry rescue plan, to be outlined in broad terms on Monday in a speech by the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, will not require banks to increase their lending. That is despite criticism that institutions that already received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, either hoarded it or used the funds to acquire other banks.

      Amy Goodman had a great piece on why Geitner’s tax problems were more serious than Daschles

      Despite problems with unpaid taxes, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was confirmed last week, but Tom Daschle, President Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services, had to withdraw his nomination for his own tax lapses. We speak to the Pulitzer-winning reporting team Jim Steele and Don Barlett on the breakdown of America’s tax system—and why they say Geithner’s lapses were far more egregious than Daschle’s. [includes rush transcript]


      • Hmmm says:

        The new financial industry rescue plan… will not require banks to increase their lending.

        Freaking brilliant, that. @&^%@&^%@.

        • Leen says:

          That is so insane WT”cheney”

          so where does the new bail out money go that they say Geitner will be pushing for? To the fat cats?

    • emptywheel says:

      And oh boy, it smells like a good one.

      My favorite apple seller still has Northern Spies, as it turns out. My syrup guys wasn’t at the market, but the apple folks were, so what was I to do?

        • freepatriot says:

          Let them eat pie!

          fuck that

          why should they eat OUR pie ???

          I had a frozen apple pie for christma, FRENCH style. No upper crust, just some cinnimon stuff sprinkled on top after it was cooked. mmmmmm, good, think I’ll go get another one now, just cuz …

      • klynn says:

        Do you go to the farmers market by Zingerman’s?

        Told Christy yesterday that my oldest asked for two pies for his 16th (a slice for each year old). He wanted one apple and one blackberry. So, when friends asked, “What did you get for your birthday?” He could say, “An Apple and a Blackberry!”

        BTW, regarding this thread, I would be interested in your comments IRT my Oxdown on the possibility that the National Infrastructure Bank was tucked into it as a bipartisan effort.

      • wildethyme says:

        OT Northern Spy???? I haven’t had a Northern Spy since I moved to Seattle in the apple state. Nothing, but nothing, beats a Northern Spy.

  6. Teddy Partridge says:

    Here’s the thing I don’t understand — the reason for including changes to a bill is to get the votes of the legislators who want the changes. If the legislator withdraws his or her support for the overall bill so modified, why is the modification still left in the bill? In other words, if Coburn and Grassley aren’t going to support the bill they modified, why are their modifications still in the bill?

    And I find museums and parks very stimulating. That they will be allowed to further decay without hiring docents and maintenance workers is very discouraging.

    • Hmmm says:

      +1 on that, Teddy. Harry and Nancy need to enforce (by muscle) a rule that if you get your changes in, you have to vote in favor of the bill. Conversely, if a modified bill fails due to lack of votes from members who got their amendments in, the very next step should automatically be to remove those amendments and re-vote the bill.

    • masaccio says:

      I think that’s a great question. I’m thinking that we should just tell the repubs to go suck eggs and take out all the crap. Then we just start calling cloture votes. One after the other. One after the other. And then another and another. Nothing else gets done until this bill passes. Eventually we win. We shove this down their throats. I’m sick of this crap.

      I looked at this pile of crap and I don’t want it bad enough to give those slugs anything but a fist in the solar plexus.

        • masaccio says:

          We need this bill to be a spending bill. Not a tax cut bill. The only tax cuts that make any sense are the tiny ones for the middle class, which grow out of the theories of behaviorial economists; and the payroll tax cuts for the very poorest among the people who still have jobs. Both of these numbers are so small that there is an excellent chance the money will be spent.

          The business tax cuts are welfare for the rich. They produce nothing in the way of jobs. They are yet another handout to the cretins who got us into this mess by voting for the worst the repubs had to offer.

          We don’t need all of the bad dems, especially in the House, but also in the Senate. What we need are people who understand what this bill is trying to accomplish. I am stunned by the level of stupidity. None of these people have read Krugman’s book, let alone the underlying research which Krugman references. Obama is going to have to beat them with a stick to get this done.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            I am stunned by the level of stupidity. None of these people have read Krugman’s book, let alone the underlying research which Krugman references.

            Well, I’ve not yet hit Krugman’s book, but from related reading it is appalling that the Senate members could be this ill-informed.

            And the MSM should just roll over and die from shame.
            They’re absolutely complicit in this mess for not doing their homework and getting better guests on their damn shows, to say nothing of most of the print articles that I’ve read.

            When CalculatedRisk is there for ‘free’, you’d think they could at least spend 2 hours each week cruising that much.

  7. FormerFed says:

    If Obama is going to get his agenda enacted, then he is going to have to take control of Congress – particularly the Senate.

    It is time to call the Rethugs bluff and tell them to go ahead and start doing a real filibuster. Let them do this a few times and I don’t think they will be able to stand the heat from the American people.

    It is pathetic to watch the D’s be jerked around on the floor of the Senate. When people like Demint, Vitter and Kyl are running things on the floor it is like a pre-Kindergarten class. Reid is just about useless.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Thank you, thank you.
      Reading this thread brought to mind several facts:
      1. The GOP/Coleman continue to tie down Al Franken, mostly because he’s willing to follow the law and they’re ideologues who can’t face reality.

      2. The Chambliss (barely) re-election was incredibly, phenomenally costly — we’ve seen it all last week.

      3. The MSM have utterly dropped the ball on economic reporting (apart from Maddow). They’ve invited a greater percentage of GOPers on the air to talk ’stimulus’ the past two weeks without pointing out that:
      (a) these GOPers are spouting economic theories of Adam Smith in 1776, revised around 1922.
      (b) these same GOPers chaired the very committees that losened the regs in the 90s and up to 2006, and therefore oversaw the creation of the ‘financial instruments and deregulation’ that got us into this mess.

      FormerFed, your ideas are terrific. Now, we’ll see whether the Dems have the guts to turn the tables on these idiotic fools and bullies.

      (I had to stop listening when Jeff Sessions came on; I simply couldn’t stand that level of stoopid on a Saturday. I thought, “No wonder Obama got outta the Senate as fast as he could — jeebuz!’)

    • obsessed says:

      I agree – Reid is really pathetic. If he loses renomination or reelection, who would be next in line? And what’s the means by which he could be replaced as majority leader immediately – or is he untouchable?

  8. Hmmm says:

    Here we go. Quoth Boehner, “90% of a bad idea is still a bad idea.” That’s an opening for PBO and all the D’s to turn the whole discussion away from “Monopartisan!” and back to the merits — turn Boehner’s question back on itself and hammer away on whose ideas are the good ones?: the ones the voters overwhelming rejected, or the ones they overwhelmingly chose?

    Maybe he’ll start weeping for us again…

  9. bobschacht says:

    OK, allow me a contrarian moment.
    Let’s think try to think strategically. Suppose the strategy is to split the Republicans, and encourage the growth of an authentically moderate wing of the Republican party among current members of Congress. The objective is to break up Republican party discipline, creating the possibility of genuine bipartisan coalitions in the future, when they might be needed e.g. for Supreme Court appointments. How would one get there, especially in the Senate given the 60 vote thingy?

    If the Susan Collins/Olympia Snow “compromise” goes down in flames, then Republican party discipline prevails, Collins and Snow get punished, and hope for future bipartisan efforts shrivels.

    If the Collins/Snow faction earns a victory, and Obama praises them for it, the not-so-fanatically-right-wing faction of the Republican party gains some cred and influence, and the reactionary wing of the party loses.

    Can the Democrats pass a Stimulus bill in the Senate without any Republican support? That would be difficult.

    Am I making any sense at all?

    Bob in HI

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        I think that your idea (like FormerFed’s) may be the only real way to finally, once-and-for-all unmask these corporate tools for the Wall Street hookers and pimps they are.

        On second thought, might be too risky for some Dems.

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      Hagis and Collins and any other moderates do need to be rewarded. You’re right.

      Moderate meaning 10″ on the ruler.

  10. alabama says:

    The Bush administration, by spending $1 trillion on its Iraq adventure, and by spending it in increments of at least $100 billion every six months or so, conditioned the whole country (Republicans and Democrats alike) to accept dedicated federal spending on a scale never before imagined.

    Obama, starting with $1 trillion, will now exploit that very “conditioning” by spending, with our somewhat dazed consent–and in a dedicated effort to keep us from falling into the deepest describable pit–some $3-4 trillion over the next two or three years. He will surely spend it on a safety net of some kind, improvising along the way with Republicans and Democrats alike, providing lots and lots of money for museums, schools, roads, bridges and single-payer medical insurance (along with some other, quite useless, things).

    Or so I believe.

    And believing this, as I do, I can’t get very upset about the “economies” being ginned by the bad guys into the current, the initial, legislation. The bad guys are chips on a wave of their own making (i.e. dedicated spending on a grand scale), and their fantasies of a free-market economy are going under water like the lost city of Atlantis.

  11. lllphd says:

    what a strategy, eh? let’s dicker with it till it’s more palpable for our interests (hell with everyone else), because we know it will pass, then not vote for it because we know it will fail -because of how we dickered with it.

    meanwhile, they and their fat cat buddies get yet more and bigger pieces of the pie.


  12. lllphd says:

    hm. brain dead here. only vague pronouns there with no antecedents.

    try again:

    what a strategy, eh? the repugs dicker with the stimulus bill till it’s more palpable for their interests (hell with everyone else), because they know it will pass, then don’t vote for it because they know it will fail -because of how they dickered with it.

    meanwhile, they and their fat cat buddies get yet more and bigger pieces of the pie.

    perfect. (despite my grossly imperfect initial attempts at characterizing it.)

  13. CTuttle says:

    Aloha, bmaz! If there was no 99 yd Harrison INT return for a td your redbirds would be sitting pretty… No Pro Bowl Trash Talk thread… It is my only real NFL game played here in the Isles…? Which could sadly reflect a typical home game for the Cards…! (again!)

    • bmaz says:

      Aloha Tuttle! Heh, the Cardinals just lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators yesterday. So much for continuity. Oh well, it is their nature to screw up; whadda you gonna do?

      Best of luck with your and better half’s appointment next week; hope things go well.

    • Hmmm says:

      Hi CT! Nice to see you here. I’ve been too busy lately, but EcStim has me hooked back in. Hope all is well with you & yours.

      (BTW I found out what that empty field below Halai Hill house was… the Veteran’s Cemetery! At least it’d be quiet…)

        • Hmmm says:

          True, but a couple real bargains too if you look very close. * Cough * zillow * Cough *.

          (Sorry all for the OT, mah boy CT and me got some catchin’ up to do.)

      • CTuttle says:

        I’m escorting the better half to Honolulu on Tues to Queen’s Medical Center for a Cardiologist appointment… A stent or even a bypass could be the net result…!

        • Hmmm says:

          Oooh CT, that must be very worrying for everyone involved! But please be advised: Stents are Good, I know a bunch of folks with ‘em and their whole level of confidence goes way, way up after the procedure! Bypasses are good things too, though obviously a much bigger deal. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you both on Tuesday.

  14. Loo Hoo. says:

    Kagro, ultimately:

    This should also, by the way, partly explain for some of you why Senate Democrats aren’t “forcing the Republicans to actually filibuster” the bill if they want to require 60 votes to pass it. It would require 60 votes anyway, filibuster or not.

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