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Commentary

obama2Ronald reaganBob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is out with a new and, as always, trenchant and fact-heavy take on President Obama’s new budget proposal. Here, however, are two paragraphs that really speak volumes:

“Some critics undoubtedly will castigate the budget for focusing its deficit reduction efforts on the revenue side. But we should keep several facts in mind. First, its $2.9 trillion in deficit reduction for 2017-2026 would come on top of the $4 trillion to $5 trillion in deficit reduction that policymakers have already achieved since 2010, and those savings came heavily on the spending side. With the new Obama proposals, total deficit reduction over this period would fall roughly 50-50 between spending and revenues, OMB estimates.

Also, part of the proposed Obama revenue increases would effectively “pay for” the large year-end tax bill that policymakers enacted in December without offsetting its cost. Under the budget, federal spending would average 22.3 percent of GDP over the coming decade, which isn’t far above the 21.6 percent average of the Reagan years. Moreover, a significantly larger share of Americans is elderly now and receiving Social Security and Medicare than in the Reagan years. In addition, we’ve experienced more than a quarter-century of health care cost growth since the Reagan years, which has boosted the cost of federal health insurance programs, most notably Medicare.”

You got that? Not only has the President made enormous progress in deficit reduction since taking over during a period of economic chaos, the deficit in his latest proposal is essentially on par with those of Reagan years. Indeed, given our aging population and the skyrocketing costs of healthcare in recent decades, its quite arguably more conservative and tightfisted than the ones the country lived under during the presidency of the modern Right’s patron saint.

At a supposedly nonpartisan Locke Foundation event the other day (the one at which the group’s former boss, in truly nonpartisan fashion, lambasted a current candidate for President as a “a charlatan, and just a pathetic, disgusting human being”), a conservative politico attacked President Obama (according to a tweet by a Locke  staffer) for supposedly seeing himself as “the linear heir to continue FDR’s socialist agenda.”

If that’s so, Greenstein’s post makes clear that the “line” ran through Ronald Reagan as well.

News

May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review President Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting to rest a challenge to its constitutionality launched more than a year ago by 26 states.

As described by Adam Liptak of the New York Times, the president’s plan would “allow millions of immigrants who are the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program sparing them from deportation and providing them work permits. The program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.”

In February, a federal district court judge in Texas  blocked implementation of the plan pending resolution of the states’ challenge, and a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans later affirmed that injunction.

Adds Liptak:

If the Supreme Court upholds Mr. Obama’s actions, the White House has vowed to move quickly to set up the DAPA program and begin enrolling immigrants before his successor takes over early next year. Democratic presidential candidates have said they will continue the program, but most of the Republicans in the race have vowed to dismantle it and redouble immigration enforcement.

The high court’s order taking the case for review, entered in U.S. v. Texas, is here.

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Commentary

The good folks at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence reacted this morning to President Obama’s executive action on guns with words of praise:

“North Carolinians Against Gun Violence commends President Obama for his brave leadership and for remaining steadfast in his commitment to reducing gun violence. The Executive Action measures detailed in the “FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer” are broad and cover a wide range of key points including expanding background checks by clarifying which gun sellers must register as licensed gun dealers and thus perform background checks to help keep guns out of dangerous hands; making communities safer by increasing ATF action and work on keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers; and providing more funds for improving mental health treatment as well as making sure that appropriate mental health records are submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Polling shows that 90% of all Americans, including the majority of gun owners, want background checks on all gun sales. It is unconscionable that the Republican Congress has failed to act on this one important measure. We applaud the President for putting the safety of Americans above the will of special interest groups. The people have spoken and the President has done what he can to deliver. North Carolinians Against Gun Violence is committed to making sure such executive actions are implemented and is proud of our President for taking these actions.”

Meanwhile, the lead editorial in the New York Times, lauded the President for his “modest, limited set of executive actions” and the Charlotte Observer, while voicing unease that the President was forced to act without Congress, described expanding background checks as one of the “common sense things” that the nation must do.

Commentary

Second chancesLast week, President Obama announced several executive actions aimed at promoting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into communities across the nation. The announcement came in response to consistent pressure from advocates, including the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, and follows a growing trend among states of reducing barriers to reentry and otherwise restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records.

Standing before a crowd of formerly incarcerated individuals, reentry service providers, business and community leaders in Newark, New Jersey, President Obama cited some of our criminal justice system’s more startling statistics:

  • 2.2 million Americans—disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos— are currently behind bars
  • The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its inmates
  • More than 600,000 inmates are released each year
  • one in three adults of working age—or 70 million Americans—have a criminal record

As the President explained in his description of what life with a criminal record can mean:

“A lot of times that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hanging onto that job. That’s bad for not only those individual— it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for our communities who need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure that Americans that have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

Towards this goal of restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for deserving community members, President Obama announced the following measures: Read More

Commentary

EconomyProgressives have lots of good reasons to wish that President Obama and the 2009-10 Congress has taken an even more aggressive approach in responding to the Great Recession. More stimulus spending and a more aggressive push to reform giant financial institutions would have undoubtedly have helped things get better faster — especially in places like North Carolina.

That said, for all the imperfections of their approach, it’s absolutely clear that the economy is much better off today than it would have been without it (and exponentially better off than it would have been had the U.S. followed the do-nothing, “cuts first” approach promoted by conservatives). For confirmation of this reality check out this new report from two of the nation’s top economists. Their central finding: the federal government’s responses were a resounding success.

Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarized their findings in this recent post:

In a major new paper for CBPP’s Policy Futures initiative, Alan Blinder, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman, and Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, explain that “the massive and multifaceted policy responses to the financial crisis and Great Recession — ranging from traditional fiscal stimulus to tools that policymakers invented on the fly — dramatically reduced the severity and length of the meltdown that began in 2008; its effects on jobs, unemployment, and budget deficits; and its lasting impact on today’s economy.”

Without the policy responses of late 2008 and early 2009, Blinder and Zandi estimate that:

  • The peak-to-trough decline in real gross domestic product (GDP), which was barely over 4 percent, would have been close to a stunning 14 percent.
  • The economy would have contracted for more than three years, more than twice as long as it did.
  • More than 17 million jobs would have been lost, about twice the actual number.
  • Unemployment would have peaked at just under 16 percent, rather than the actual 10 percent.
  • The budget deficit would have grown to more than 20 percent of GDP, about double its actual peak of 10 percent, topping off at $2.8 trillion in fiscal 2011.
  • Today’s economy would be far weaker than it is — with real GDP in the second quarter of 2015 about $800 billion lower than its actual level, 3.6 million fewer jobs, and unemployment at a still-dizzying 7.6 percent.

This landmark paper is especially important because Read More