Congressman Himes On Debt Ceiling

Monday, July 11, 2011

On the Brian Lehrer Show today at 10:20am. Audio and a recap will be posted here by 1pm.

U.S. Congressman (D-CT-4), Jim Himes, will discuss the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington and other news of the day.


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Comments [33]

Helen Northmore from New York

What’s been done?

I caught a bit of this segment on the radio the other day, and finally got to listen to the entire podcast today. And three days later, there is still no resolution about raising the debt ceiling. What a sorry state of affairs.

Some of the discussion focused on “loopholes”. According to Merriam-Webster, a “loophole is a means of escape; especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract or obligation may be evaded.”

Republicans don’t seem to agree with the dictionary about taxes being an obligation that is evaded by a loophole. They call it “raising taxes”. Perhaps the term “tax expenditure” is less politically charged. If tax spending was reduced, would that be the same as a spending cut? How agreeable.

Members of both political parties and both Houses of Congress agreed to study the financial problems of the country months ago. In 2010, their report had numerous recommendations to address the problem. These included raising taxes, as well as spending cuts.

Not everyone agrees with everything in the 2010 report. For instance, Recommendation 2.2 of the fiscal commission’s report is to close corporate loopholes. Here’s how the report stated it “. . . corporations are able to minimize tax through various tax expenditures inserted into the tax code as a result of successful lobbying.”

Do members of Congress think so little of their fellow members’ work? Months have past. What’s been done?

“The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” report is at:

And the co-chairs’ (Simpson/Bowles) proposal of November, 2010 is at:

These were the members of Congress who participated on the Commission:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9)
Rep. John Spratt (D-SC 5)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI 4)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX 5)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1)

Jul. 14 2011 07:23 PM
Steve from Shelton, CT

People are mischaracterizing Jim's district. Yes, he is from Greenwich, but Greenwich is a large city that actually has a lot more middle class families than people realize. It's not a giant gated community of billionaires as you might imagine if you've never been there - parts of Greenwich are like that but most of it isn't. More importantly, Jim's district also includes Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk - huge Democratic cities which provided the bulk of his votes in '08 and '10. Sure, there are more wealthy people in his district than the average district, but the suggestion that he "represents the wealthy" is far from the truth. Politically speaking, he cares a lot more about what Bridgeport thinks of him than Greenwich. Just wanted to set the record straight.

Jul. 12 2011 08:30 AM
Ron Raphael

first of all government workers should give a symbolic cut of 50% of their salaries (obviously not enough to solve the debt problem but enough that taking away entitlements will be shown), Also, true compromise is starting from and meeting center field;not beginning in right-centerfield and negotiating from there.

Jul. 11 2011 07:20 PM

To Amy...
I was not surprised to hear Himes mention savings, for two reasons:

1. The Washington Post carried an op-ed this Sunday on the debt issue from one of the founders of Blackstone (Peter G. Peterson)

2. Earlier this year, BlackRock (spun off of Blackstone) was one of the successful bidders to run a portion of NEST (National Employment Savings Trust), the new, highly controversial UK pension scheme for low-earners. State Street was another. UBS, of tax-dodging fame, a third.

(NEST is controversial for its use of auto-enrollment while charging effective annual rates of 0.43%, i.e. industry-standard, not cheaper. Btw, short-term start-up charges are even higher! Boy, would Wall Street love some of that here!)

To journalists...
So, is this renewed interest in hoi poloi "personal savings" (now being voiced by so-called liberal politicians) a sign of lobbying by companies like Blackstone?

I'd sure like to know!

info from

Jul. 11 2011 12:23 PM

Did Himes seem to speak out of both sides of his mouth on SocSec and Medicare?

Transcripts would be so nice to be able to refer to....

But, I think he said he would not vote for cuts to SS and Medicare. But he'd also said he would have voted for Simpson-Bowles, which had cuts, both by "changes" and later full payments. Then he said he would support means testing.

Then he said back in 1983 the retirement age was raised "gently"; he did not mention that from date forward every worker under SocSec PAID FORWARD, paid higher rates, to ENSURE ENOUGH MONEY for the Baby Boomer Bulge. And Bush thought that "trust" fund would be a great source for tax cuts to the rich!

I remember thinking what was the big deal about working one more year or so? I had a great job, I was considered a fine employee, I was getting awards, etc. I would surely make it to 67....

Well, uh, no, I didn't. I was older, I was being paid more because of good evaluations and longevity, so I cost the corporation more than a younger new hire. In the downsizing there was this amazing coincidence that most of the workers let go were...older workers!

No big deal, I thought; I have experience, good references, lists of accomplishments. But I didn't get a good job. Then, I got cancer and lost my new job.

Potential employers, seeing not only an older person but one with health expense issues---well, no new job. And I feared desperately not having insurance. So, I paid the big bucks for individual health insurance and wiped out my savings. Then I had to take SS earlier.... (Oh, I had also tried to set up some self-employment work -- really bad timing.)

So, maybe Obama does need to propose a Soylent Green plan for 1) new jobs and 2) lower cost protein food product for the growing numbers of poor and unemployed, and 3) giving people a way to truly sacrifice themselves to the greater mess, no fuss, no burial costs, just donate oneself to...deficit reduction and the greater good.

Jul. 11 2011 11:48 AM

Apologies for not proofreading. Eeek.

Jul. 11 2011 11:17 AM

If you look at the chart linked to, it is apparent where the bulk of the deficit comes from:

1 - Bush and now Obama Wars

2 - Bush and now Obama Tax Cuts (which are increasing as part of the deficit, and will continue to increase)

3 - Self limited and nearly gone--TARP and Obama stimulus measures -- now down to very little as a part of the deficit. But, since there stimulus portion was so small, it couldn't build up the economy enough to handle have the stimulus end.

4 - Economic downturn. Bush and Obama mostly took care of the Big Banksters and some Big Business. But that is the big underlying base of the deficits. If people have not jobs, they pay no income tax. No tax revenues coming in from the 9.2 to actual 18+ or may closer in reality to lo2 to mid-20% of people with little or no work can't pay much in taxes.

Too bad Obama tried to avoid being thought of as the 21st C. FDR and instead chose Hoover and Reagan as his models.

And the wealthy? Well, Repubs think they create jobs just by being wealthy and then wealthier. They they have more money than Croesus and can play with it, losing in scams and financial instruments -- or for awhile make a killing. None of which helps the real economy.

But, for the Uberwealthy, the "real" economy is their niche, which is doing quite well. And even our DC Dems think they belong in that Uberwealthy world, not ours. Which is why they vote to protect the Uberwealthy and ignore the needs of the masses.

They do not work for us; their masters are far better paymasters, albeit they demand good value for their donation monies.

Us? We're lucky to get one of those email replies which say nothing..

Jul. 11 2011 11:13 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I was surprised to hear Rep. Himes say it's a question of who "chooses" to put money away for retirement. Especially during times like these, many people don't have the choice to put money away because they aren't making enough to put anything away after meeting expenses. I hope he's not this tone-deaf on other issues.

Jul. 11 2011 10:57 AM

I wonder if Rep. Himes, or Brian...even Obama...are familiar with this chart.

The chart that should accompant every discussion of deficits.

Jul. 11 2011 10:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Republicans believe that ALL taxation is theft, especially when it comes from their clients. They believe that only the military and police should be paid for by general taxation, and staffed by poor people, to protect their properties and their assets.Otherwise everything else should be private. Poor people who cannot afford doctors and medicine should accept the Will of God, lay down and die. Those blessed by God with riches deserve to live and employ the rest of us, who should be thankful for their largesse.

Jul. 11 2011 10:50 AM

Actually, Brian, among those in the lower income levels, people are DYING YOUNGER. Only the well to do are living longer.

Rep. Himes -- I don't know how to explain this to you, since you're making over $100K, but many people can barely manage on they earn..

Do you know what the current MEDIAN income is? Not the average, the MEDIAN, below which most people have as income?

How much could YOU save on earnings of $25K a year? On $30K? In this region? Throw in having no employer supplied health insurance, an illness maybe....

We wouldn't be having this horrible economic situation if we hadn't had the massive shift of wealth from the middle classes, all below the fiive percent, maybe all below the Top One Percenters, since the Reagan years.


Jul. 11 2011 10:50 AM
Joyce from Manhattan

Please remind listeners and call-ins that Obama did not choose the largest debt reduction; he went around the table and asked EVERYONE there. Republican and Democrat alike voted for the largest. It was a unanimous decision.

Jul. 11 2011 10:50 AM
Geoff O' Sullivan from Prospect Heights Brooklyn

Please, someone ask the Republicans,when is it an appropriate time to raise taxes? If not now , if not during rapid growth, if not when we are at war, if not during a recession, if not during a recovery, then when ?

Jul. 11 2011 10:45 AM
Katie from Brooklyn

Can you imagine a family sitting around the table trying to close a household budget gap saying, "We cannot even consider trying to earn more money, even though we easily could. We have to make ends meet by cutting expenses alone, even if it means defaulting on debts we've already incurred." ?? Ridiculous!

Jul. 11 2011 10:44 AM

Rep. Himes, I don't know if Pres. Obama and his crew listen to you, or any House Dems, but I can tell you everyone I know is bristling that Obama is pushing to make his "fixes," which are really cuts and serious ones over the coming years, to Medicare and SocSec. Some don't mind cutting Medicaid, until they reaize that's the last resort for people when their savings run out.

Andrew Kohut says the people want some cuts to pograms, but also want tax increases on the wealthy. By TWO TO ONE.

Back in December, before Obama gave the store away to the Republicans with an extension of the Bush, now Obama, Tax Cuts, and even made the very poorest actually PAY MORE (ever so slightly, but they have so very little). Then people by TWO TO ONE
wanted the Bush Tax Cuts to expire, even if it meant paying slightly more all the way down the line. Oh, drat, you corporatist Dems!

I'm sorry to hear you would vote for Simpson-Bowles -- that's a rightwing, Republican fat cat dream. They've been working against SocSec since FDR first announced it.

I guess I really do not have a political party anymore. Time to de-register as a Dem. I've been holding out hope that our Congressional Dems would resist Obama and the Austerians. But...really??? Simpson-Bowles? Not even the only slightly less conservative Rohmer suggestion. And what about the People's Budget?

Away with these apostasies! FDR understood that these programs will not survive unless they are everyone's programs.

We desperately need a party which represents the people, not the monied class and Big Bidness.

Jul. 11 2011 10:44 AM
Michael from Totowa NJ

I'm sick of hearing republicans say we shouldn't be raising taxes during a recession, implying that increased taxes somehow stops job growth. Business will expand and employ more when 1: There is an identifiable market opportunity 2: The cost of capital is affordable and 3: Labor is available at profitable rates. Nobody expands or starts a business because they of a marginal tax rates on profits that they think are too high!

Jul. 11 2011 10:43 AM
jmt from Tarrytown, NY

The flaw with raising the retirement age is that many people now approaching retirement age are out of work. A lot of businesses out there don't seem to want to keep or hire those in their early 60's.

Jul. 11 2011 10:41 AM
Phil from Park Slope

It seems a significant cross section of the Republican caucus has painted and pledged themselves into a rhetorical corner on "taxes" and the debt ceiling. The only way to get them to back down from ultimatums will be to come up with some kind of face-saving solution that they can take back to the pitchfork and torch wielding mob that elected them. I really think the solution will end up being as linguistic as it is mathematical.

Jul. 11 2011 10:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Virtually ALL subsidies and deductions were implemented to create jobs somewhere, and back in the 50s and '60s, most of the jobs that were being created were in the US, not in China or India or even Mexico.

WE should do away with all subsidies and deductions, and let the chips fall where they may. People who want to buy a house in the future should not take into consideration the interest deductions. We overbuilt housing, which is what got us into this mess.

Jul. 11 2011 10:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

When I hear "subsidy," I tend to think of a payout. How many federal subsidies are actually payments & how many are in the form of tax cuts?

Jul. 11 2011 10:41 AM
Brian from Hoboken

How are people with million dollar incomes and second homes writing off mortgage interest? Maybe I need their accountant because my wife and I don't make a million dollars and have only one home and somehow we get hit with the AMT every year at a cost of $15k or so.

If the Democrats can't get tax loopholes for oil companies and the owners of private jets closed, then they have no hope. They are giving in on Social Security that affects tens of millions of regular Americans and not even getting a loophole that benefits a couple thousand jet owners?!?! Pathetic "deal".

Jul. 11 2011 10:40 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

Per Paul Krugman, raising the retirement age will INCREASE costs. This is about ideology, not economics.

Jul. 11 2011 10:39 AM
Xtina from E. Village

Cong. Hines says closing the tax loophole on second home mortgage interest is wrong in a bad economy.

Isn't it actually stimulative to the economy? Won't fewer people buy second homes if you take away their tax break? The housiing market is in collapse, this will contract it even further.

It's just like Cash for Clunkers, which stimulated buying new cars.

Jul. 11 2011 10:38 AM

The Republicans just won't stop until America is like India with a few super wealthy living like Gods and everyone else living in asbestos shacks. Of course America was more or less like this back in "the good old days" of the 1800s. I think American prosperity in the 50s and 60s was just an accident and now we will be returning to the decrepit conditions of the 19th century.

Jul. 11 2011 10:36 AM

Maybe it’s time for blue states to stop sending aid to red states

Jul. 11 2011 10:35 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Please ask Himes, as the representative from Greenwich, home of the Obama-demonized "hedgefund billionaires" those people elected an admitted tax-and-spend-more Democrat like himself?

Jul. 11 2011 10:34 AM
Peter Brown from Brooklyn

Can someone PLEASE tell me how raising taxes on wealthy individuals would negatively impact job creation? Don't Businesses create jobs, not individuals (with rare exceptions)? Obama isn't proposing raising taxes on small businesses, he's proposing raising taxes on wealthy individuals, right?

It doesn't make any sense to me.

Jul. 11 2011 10:31 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I think some Republican answers to social programs is to eventually re-institute feudalsm or mabye even slavery. The feudal Lords of the Manor will take care of his peasantry, who will provide him with an ample supply of domestic house workers for his castle, picked from among the serfs working his lands and mines.

Now some may feel this preferable to the kolkhoz or state collective farms, where everyone is guaranteed a job in the worker's paradise.

However, as an independent myself, I hope some reasonable middle ground can be found. Back to family farms perhaps, with families taking care of their own? Oh, right, we only need 2% of the population to provide us with food. So what do we do with the rest? Put them on ice floes when they hit age 75 perhaps?
Jul. 11 2011 10:11 AM

Jul. 11 2011 10:10 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

As egregious as US national debt is (¬$50,000 per capita, and 95% of annual GDP overall), the EU is almost as bad. The UK has a national debt 400% of annual GDP, while highly successful Germany has a per capita debt of over $58,000, and overall national debt that is 142% of annual GDP.

So America's debt situation, while pretty darn bad, is still not as bad as some other industrial countries. What are some of them doing to deal with their debt in regards to tax policies and spending cuts, and can we learn anything from them?

My figures are from Wikipedia - "List of countries by external debt."

Jul. 11 2011 09:48 AM
gary from queens

John, 80% of the revenues that had not gone to government through the Bush tax cuts had benefitted people earning less that $200k per yr.

Bruce, Republicans actually want two things:

(1) They want the Dems to admit the the social programs run by government----social security, medicare, medicaid----are already insolvent and cannot aid the next generation.

(2) They want the social safety net programs run by the private sector, at arms distance from legislators promising the world, in order to get elected, and contractors more skilled at becoming cronies to government bureaucrats than exhibiting any merit in what they're hired to do (e.g. healthcare)

Lets learn something from Greece and the EU.

Jul. 11 2011 09:40 AM
gary from queens

Charles Krauthammer (July 8, 2011):

...from the miasma of gridlock, rises our president, calling upon those unruly congressional children to quit squabbling, stop kicking the can down the road, and get serious about debt.

This from the man who:

--- Ignored the debt problem for two years by kicking the can to a commission.

--- Promptly ignored the commission’s December 2010 report.

--- Delivered a State of the Union address in January that didn’t even mention the debt until 35 minutes in.

--- Delivered in February a budget so embarrassing — it actually increased the deficit — that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it 97–0.

--- Took a budget mulligan with his April 13 debt-plan speech. Asked in Congress how this new “budget framework” would affect the actual federal budget, Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf replied with a devastating “We don’t estimate speeches.” You can’t assign numbers to air.

President Obama assailed the lesser mortals who inhabit Congress for not having seriously dealt with a problem he had not dealt with at all, then scolded Congress for being even less responsible than his own children. They apparently get their homework done on time.

My compliments. But the Republican House did do its homework. It’s called a budget. It passed the House on April 15. The Democratic Senate has produced no budget. Not just this year, but for two years running. As for the schoolmaster-in-chief, he produced two 2012 budget facsimiles: The first (February) was a farce and the second (April) was empty, dismissed by the CBO as nothing but words untethered to real numbers.

Obama has run disastrous annual deficits of around $1.5 trillion while insisting for months on a “clean” debt-ceiling increase, (i.e. with no budget cuts at all). Yet suddenly he now rises to champion major long-term debt reduction, scorning any suggestions of a short-term debt-limit deal as can-kicking.


Jul. 11 2011 09:31 AM
Bruce Hampson from Wilton, CT

It appears to many of us that the Republican goal is not really deficit reduction but rather to gut the social , environmental and regulatory programs that reflect the core values of the Democratic party. I agree that changes must be made but could you vote for a Debt Ceiling bill that cut trillions out of those programs but did not touch the "carried interest" tax distortion, Oil and gas tax subsidies and other Republican sacred cows?

Jul. 10 2011 10:34 PM
John from Greenwich

Jim, you're a democrat in a somewhat unique position, representing an affluent constituency but still trying to adhere to the principles of your party as expressed by the President and other party leaders. Do you think eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich is a necessary part of cutting the deficit, and do you think it should be insisted upon during the current negotiations?

Jul. 10 2011 12:23 PM

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