Joe Biden: ‘Most Americans got nailed’

Vice President Joe Biden came out swinging today in advance of tomorrow’s U.S. Senate vote on President Obama’s tax proposal.

“It’s a simple proposition – we’re proposing to extend the middle-class tax cut for 98 percent of the American people” – those making up to $250,000 per year, Biden told reporters on a conference call.

If the tax cuts aren’t extended, 114 million people will see their taxes increase by thousands of dollars, he said. Biden was citing figures from a new report from the National Economic Council.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said. “But the Republicans have fixed on extending all the cuts… They’re holding the middle-class tax cut hostage.”

Republicans propose continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, regardless of income. Biden said extending the cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year would cost $1 trillion over next decade, almost 80 percent of which would go to those making more than $1 million a year (who would continue enjoying an average tax cut of $160,000 per year). “What’s happening here is the very wealthy are getting the vast bulk of all of what the Republicans want to extend,” he said.

“The other side claims this is the best way to grow the economy,” Biden said – a continuation of “trickle down” economic policies. “The problem is, we’ve seen that movie before, and we know how it ends. It didn’t work before. In the beginning of the decade, congress passed trillions of dollars in tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans more than anybody else.”

“What happened? The rich got richer… but most Americans got nailed. We had the slowest job growth in half a century after 2000, the typical family actually saw their income fall.”

In fact, Biden said, the Republicans’ tax proposal actually would hit millions of poor and middle-class Americans with higher taxes while protecting the wealthy.

He said that under the GOP plan, 11 million people will take a $1,100 tax hike because the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses won’t be extended; 12 million will take an $800 tax hike due to elimination of recent child tax credit improvements; and 6 million will take a $500 tax hike due to elimination of marriage and large-family provisions under the Earned Income Tax Credit program.


Barbara Lee attacks Romney on Obama’s behalf

Rep. Barbara Lee went on the attack against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney behalf of President Obama’s re-election campaign Tuesday, blasting Romney’s business record at Bain Capital.

Lee, D-Oakland, said America doesn’t need a president who got rich by putting the concerns of other wealthy investors over those of workers.

“Like President Obama, I believe we need to restore middle class security and create an economy built to last,” she said on a conference call with reporters. “Unfortunately, Mitt Romney’s economic policies would do even more damage to the middle class.”

Lee touted Obama’s Recovery Act economic stimulus, which she said focused upon infrastructure, research and development, clean energy and environmental programs to create 500,000 jobs in California; she said her district saw $2 billion invested for private-sector job growth.

She said she’s not attacking Romney’s right to run a business as he sees fit, but rather she’s questioning whether “the lessons and values Romney drew from his time as a buyout specialist” suit him to lead the nation’s economic recovery. “We don’t want an economy where workers are left behind.”

Lee’s teleconference is being packaged as part of the Obama campaign’s focus on the story of GST Steel of Kansas City. Bain bought a controlling interest in GST in 1993 and GST went bankrupt in 2001, two years after Romney left day-to-day management of Bain. But he didn’t formally leave the company until 2001, and he did so then under a retirement agreement in which he has shared in Bain’s corporate buyout and investment profits ever since.

Here’s the Obama campaign’s ad, launched yesterday:

(A six-minute version is available here.)

“President Obama and his billion-dollar attack machine are desperately trying to distract from their own failed record of wasteful spending and crony capitalism by launching an attack on free enterprise,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said yesterday. “The President should be more concerned with helping the twenty-three million Americans who are struggling for work. Mitt Romney has the experience and pro-growth plan to promote job creation and get our economy back on track.”


Three new chairs for Mark DeSauliner

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced today that the Senate Rules Committee has approved the creation of three new select committees that he’ll chair: the Select Committee on Excellence and Innovation in State Government; the Select Committee on Restoring California’s Middle Class; and the Select Committee on Small Business and the Underground Economy.

In his news release, he had this to say about the first:

“Reforming state government and constitutional reform is imperative to solving some of the challenges we face regarding the budget and governance. We cannot just complain about a system, we must be willing to take serious steps to fix it. This includes taking a long-term, focused look at the structure of government and the way our government serves the public. Real reform won’t happen overnight. It could take years, but it must start now and we need to focus on immediate, short range and long term structural change.”

About the committee on the middle class, he said:

“By restoring the middle class we can also restore our economy. The middle class is being systematically wiped out. Most Americans are realizing less wealth and are seeing their wealth decline at an alarming rate. The chasm between prosperity and poverty has never been wider. The average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had nearly doubled to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Census began studying the situation in 1947.”

And about the small business and underground economy committee, he said:

“One way to restore our economy is to foster small business. Small businesses are innovative, creative, hard-working, and provide many jobs in our marketplace. I know this firsthand as a former small business owner. By examining this issue, we may be able to find ways to combat the economic loss that the underground economy brings to the State as well as small businesses. Small businesses are a driving force in California’s economy. But California’s small businesses and their workers are facing an ever-increasing danger – their ability to compete in the state and global economy is threatened by the underground economy. This underground economy plagues many of our once vital industries, drives down wages, creates harsh working conditions, and undercuts legitimate businesses to a point where they can no longer fairly compete and provide well-paying jobs to Californians.”

The way these things typically work is that DeSaulnier will reach out to his peers and figure out who’s interested in participating, and then go back to the Rules Committee to have those people appointed to these panels. Then they’ll start holding hearings, with an eye toward developing legislation most likely for next year.

I think the more cynical among us look at something like this and say, “Oh boy, just what we needed – more committees!” Kinda like the feeling you get when someone announces a new blue-ribbon commission. I wanted to ask DeSaulnier why these issues aren’t being, or can’t be, adequately addressed within the existing committees, but I haven’t heard back from him this afternoon.


McNerney’s tax amendment nixed in House

As the House voted 314-112 today to repeal a part of last year’s health care reform requiring businesses to report far more of their business transactions to the Internal Revenue Service, an East Bay lawmaker tried to attach an amendment providing a middle-class tax cut paid for by closing tax loopholes exploited by oil and gas companies.

“As a former small business owner, I know firsthand what it’s like to make ends meet when times are tough,” Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “It’s more important than ever now that we provide small businesses with the tools to succeed. I support repealing the 1099 provision, but we can improve the Republican proposal and help middle class families.”

“That’s why I offered an alternative,” he continued. “My amendment repeals the 1099 requirement and also provides a middle class tax cut paid for by closing tax loopholes exploited by big oil and gas companies. Oil companies have earned record profits over the last few years, and it’s just not right for them to take advantage of special loopholes when the middle class is struggling.”

Consideration of McNerney’s amendment was blocked by a vote of 243 to 181; all Bay Area House members – except Jackie Speier, who didn’t vote – voted in favor of considering his amendment.

Last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a provision requiring corporations that aren’t tax-exempt to report to the IRS all payments of $600 or more. This was meant to raise about $21.9 billion more in tax revenue over the next decade, to help pay other parts of the health-care reform bill.

H.R. 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act to would repeal the 1099 reporting requirement, was offered by House Republicans. Although Democrats and President Barack Obama agree the provision should be repealed, some opposed this bill because it makes up for the lost money by accelerating repayment of health insurance subsidies for families above certain income thresholds – something they say would hurt working, middle-class families. McNerney was the only Bay Area member to vote for the bill today; all others opposed it except Speier, who didn’t vote.

The U.S. Senate passed its own Democratic-backed version of the repeal last month, and now the two chambers must reconcile their language on the issue before it can move forward.