Republican Fiscal Cliff Proposal

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

John Boehner House Speaker John Boehner (Getty)

The GOP has made a "fiscal cliff" counter-offer. James Capretta, fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, discusses the plan and what conservatives want from the negotiations.


James Capretta

Comments [37]

@MichaelWNYC -

"Social Security and Medicare are emphatically not just savings accounts, folks. They are good, old-fashioned "socialism:" those who have money helping to pay to give those who haven't a decent life."

What you are describing sounds more like Marxism, Michael, not socialism. Socialism is the state ownership of the means of production. Marxism is encapsulated in the state "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

In either case, Social Security and Medicare are both forms of social insurance which is neither socialist or Marxist.

Dec. 09 2012 02:20 PM
Edward from NJ


I call myself liberal. I've always thought that the recent rise of the term "progressive" represents a surrender to the right-wing's villainization of the word "liberal". The difference is largely semantic. I can't think of any position that a liberal would hold that a progressive wouldn't also hold -- or vice-versa. Obviously, individuals might vary on certain specific issues, but that would hold true within groups of either self-designation.

I don't have a problem with journalism that has a progressive agenda, but that's not WNYC's mission -- particularly not on this program.

You talk about citation. You were "PRETTY POSITIVE" in your earlier post, but you were the one who had the facts wrong. In my previous post, I provided a link to the correct facts from a reputable organization. As someone who would probably agree with you about 90% of issues, I think it's really important to argue based on accurate facts, lest our mutual opponents dismiss everything we say. When I hear a fact that doesn't match my existing understanding, my first stop is the Google search box, not the comment box.

Dec. 07 2012 11:52 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

This is a late comment, but note that I said I thought WNYC tried to be PROGRESSIVE, not "liberal" -- two different ideas altogether, so please read thoroughly before you critique. It seems to me that Lehrer often phrases questions from a progressive viewpoint. And since you went there on the topic of "biased" (I might say "reality-based") news -- is a better news source than any other I know. Call it biased if you want, because yes it could be called a "liberal" source, but they talk about the MOST important issues, those that most reputable publications/stations wouldn't touch with a 50-foot pole, and they present facts that are backed up with actual sources that are, like, CITED. What a novel idea.

Dec. 06 2012 10:54 AM
Political Girl from Washington

Pretty funny reading some of these comments. The sorry...progressives aren't use to hearing basic facts, just TPs provided by the Obama administration to NPR and MSNBC.

Dec. 06 2012 09:53 AM

Jack from New York writes,"The comparison is a diversion from the issue of "fiscal cliff" and/or deficit spending. Social Security is funded by direct worker contributions (FICA). It does not contribute to the general budget deficit."

I genuinely wish that some of this were true. First, it's worth noting that while many people's Social Security payroll taxes will equate to what they ultimately get out of Social Security will get no more out of social security than they paid in, many lower-income people will get substantially more -- and thank goodness, or they would never be able to survive in old age. (Not to stray too far off of the topic, but the numbers for Medicare are far starker, with most people getting far more out of the program than they ever paid in in payroll taxes.

But more to the core of your point, on Social Security's connection to the rest of the Federal budget and to the deficit: idea that Social Security is firewalled off and pays for itself with no link to the general budget would only really work if the money the Baby Boomers paid in via payroll taxes had actually been put aside into the Social Security Trust Fund as it was supposed to be. But it hasn't: Congress has been "borrowing" money from the Fund to pay for contemporary spending for decades. This, in turn, has kept all those Boomers from having to pay the additional, non-payroll taxes required to pay for all the everyday spending that went on during their working lives -- leaving it to tomorrow's workers to pay the additional taxes to repay the Trust Fund and pay for the Boomers' social security.

Social Security and Medicare are emphatically not just savings accounts, folks. They are good, old-fashioned "socialism:" those who have money helping to pay to give those who haven't a decent life. And (aside from the Trust Fund problem) we liberals should acknowledge and celebrate that, instead of trying to fool ourselves or play to the conservatives.

And, props to Edward from NJ, for his reponse to Jim from Brooklyn's "I thought WNYC at least TRIED to pretend they were somewhat progressive?"

--> "You thought wrong. They attempt to be neutral. "

Thank you. The world does not need more echo-chambering of left-wing talking points presented as journalism, any more than it needs more of the same from the right. It needs journalists and media that make a serious attempt to let all sides present their arguments, provide a forum where the clash of ideas can happen without chest-thumping or fireworks, and then to get at the truth when it can.

Dec. 05 2012 01:14 PM
AM from Manhattan

Pity the interviewer just let the interview devolve into a recitation by Capretta of (Repubilcan) talking points. Simple common sense requires interviewers to ask questions that begin with "On the other hand..... etc etc.". Unfortunately this didn't happen enough and it became boring and less informative than it could have been. Probably boring for Capretta too.

For instance, Capretta stated that Obama should be supporting Bowles Simpson. But the interviewer neglected to point out that the Republicans don't fully support it either. Bowles Simpson uses a revenue baseline that assumes "that the tax cuts President Bush and Congress enacted in 2001 and 2003 would expire for incomes over $250,000 for couples ($200,000 for singles)." So much for that criticism of Obama.

Dec. 04 2012 02:33 PM
Jack from New York

Edward from NJ: "As far as Jim's specific complaint about military spending vs. spending on retirees, the guest is correct. The government spends roughly the same amount on Social Security and defense spending."

The comparison is a diversion from the issue of "fiscal cliff" and/or deficit spending. Social Security is funded by direct worker contributions
(FICA). It does not contribute to the general budget deficit. Nor is Social Security "running out of funds" as many try to make it seem. Such predictions are twenty years into the future, and I'm yet to be shown any evidence that anyone can predict economic phenomenon that far into the future. Also, Social Security benefits are immediately returned to our economy in the form of spending. War spending results in enormous deficiencies to our budget. And no Virginia, there is no unified budget.

The fact that WNYC provides Mr. Crapetta with a stage from which to spread the many misleading comments made on this morning's broadcast without any requirement that he provide any supporting documentation beyond his own "expdertise," which was not in evidence, is a common failure on Mr Lehrer's show and too many other WNYC broadcasts. I've had enough, so the contributions that I or my wife send in will stop.

Dec. 04 2012 02:17 PM
Edward from NJ

Jim wrote: "I thought WNYC at least TRIED to pretend they were somewhat progressive?"

You thought wrong. They attempt to be neutral. Since reality has a liberal bias, they may give the impression of being progressive fairly often. This particular guest was introduced as a conservative. Tomorrow, they'll likely have a liberal on the same topic. As conservatives go, this guest was relatively connected to reality. There were plenty of boiler-plate talking points, but I've heard far worse GOP talking heads.

As far as Jim's specific complaint about military spending vs. spending on retirees, the guest is correct. The government spends roughly the same amount on Social Security and defense spending. Add in Medicare, and the government spends significantly more on retirees than it does on the military. Here's a non-partisan source that most conservatives would call a liberal source:

I disagree with much of what the guest says regarding policy, but if you're going to get ALL-CAPS outraged, it helps to have your own facts straight first.

Dec. 04 2012 11:17 AM
James from NJ

Terrible lack of real push back from Pesca against this AEI "expert" not a trained economist.
Pesca was barely able to correct himself and point out that EVERYONE pays the same tax rates at each level of earnings. NY Times had good graphics on the REDUCED tax burdens over the past several decades in a recent article.

WNYC seems to be following the "equal time for dumb ideas" policy that NPR adopted as soon as the GOP house started to talk about pulling the plug on their funding.

Dec. 04 2012 11:11 AM

@Charlie from Tribeca

"Ah, but the old people vote en masse, don't they? Hard to imagine them cutting their own entitlements."

When did the idea of getting what you paid for become an entitlement?

Social Security and MediCare payments are not entitlements. They are insurance programs paid into by the equivalent of 15.3% of earnings during our entire work lives. If the premiums do not cover experience, then benefits go down or the premium has to go up.

Please let go of the 'entitlements' concept.

Dec. 04 2012 10:56 AM

@Amy from Manhattan

Before I set you straight, I fundamentally agree payroll tax caps need to be changed and the rates should go down. In my opinion, setting the cut off at a multiple of the median income indexes it so the argument can be over. We would also need to deal with the amount of income that the self-employed need to pay since we pay both sides of the FICA tax(!).

However, earnings are not salaries. [Gates salary while at MS was only $100K per year. The remainder of his earnings was stock appreciation.]

There are some proposals for taxing 'wealth' instead of income but I haven't come across one yet that is fully thought out.

Dec. 04 2012 10:40 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

I thought WNYC at least TRIED to pretend they were somewhat progressive? This hack sub for Brian Lehrer needs to go to Fox if he can't even phrase questions about Boehner's recent proposal in a semi-unbiased way. AND CAN HE PLEASE TELL US WHERE HE GOT HIS INFORMATION THAT THE GOVERNMENT SPENDS THE MOST MONEY "FUNDING RETIREES?" I'm sorry but I'm PRETTY POSITIVE we spend more money on our unnecessary military budget. IF THE HOST DOESN'T DEFEND THIS STATEMENT, HE'S AN IRRESPONSIBLE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CORPORATE MEDIA SPREADING MISINFORMATION. It's as simple as that.

Dec. 04 2012 10:39 AM
Ruth Pennoyer

Please refer to the 11/15/2012 Paul Krugman NYTimes editorial concerning raising the retirement age.

Dec. 04 2012 10:38 AM
antonio from baySide

amen mck...
I have said this before, get your center-right views that feel progressive when peppered with talk about food trucks and subway knitting from wnyc...

Dec. 04 2012 10:34 AM

Really? Can we get a little balance on this very most important topic? We finally here for the R and we get a very limited conservative view? Would love to get liberal take on the this long awaited republican proposal?

Dec. 04 2012 10:32 AM
Karen Schifano

When will the Pentagon budget be on the table for cuts? Pesca didn't provide enough push back to this guest with the same old talking points.

Dec. 04 2012 10:31 AM
@ mejimenez from manhattan from Harlem

No, man, people don't understand nothin'. If it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, then it's way over the average voter's head. Obama will say "Rich people should pay more taxes!" and everybody goes "Yeah!" and that's the end of it. People deserve the leaders they elect.

Dec. 04 2012 10:30 AM
antonio from baySide

Social Security doesn't need to be reformed. And is not part of the budget. It is a canard to express that it does. It is funded by taxes from payroll, bonds and the tax that is levied from disbursement.

Dec. 04 2012 10:30 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

What about over sized military expenditures?
Any thoughts on seriously cutting back on that bloated budget?

Dec. 04 2012 10:29 AM
Janis McEvoy

I'm amazed at all the cheerleading from the side of the interviewer... he questions none of the obviously biased statements. When the "neutral" interviewee starts talking about Social Security and Medicare, there's not a peep out of Pesca. American Enterprise Institute, my eye. To allow such a long segment giveaway without a pertinent question makes me think this is a Faux News report.
Please bring back Brian Lehrer, even if he's not rested enough!

Dec. 04 2012 10:29 AM
mck from Inwood

Social Security contributes $0 to the deficit. It has its own funding. Who selected this guy for an interview...a Fox producer?

Dec. 04 2012 10:28 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Questions to ask these "deficit hawks": Is austerity sound policy in the context of mass un/under-employment and the highest income inequality in history? Do you see no relationship between the deficit and the steep income increase for a few while income has atrophied for the masses? Do you see how this economic state is unsustainable and self-perpetuating? Why is your economic analysis so pedestrian?

Dec. 04 2012 10:27 AM
Charlie from Tribeca

Ah, but the old people vote en masse, don't they? Hard to imagine them cutting their own entitlements.

Dec. 04 2012 10:26 AM
jonathan from Manhattan

that's a lie. that talking point on raising the minimum age for medicare is a lie. a comparison between lower-income groups between now and forty years ago shows a negligible increase in longevity. these are the groups who depend on medicare and social security the most. raising the minimum age hits hardest the most vulnerable Americans.

Dec. 04 2012 10:26 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

What is this about the GOP's reference to Erskine Bowles...?

_Bowles rejects GOP plan to avoid fiscal cliff_

Dec. 04 2012 10:26 AM
Carey from Harlem

I <3 Mike Pesca. That is all.

Dec. 04 2012 10:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm gonna ask the same question I asked yesterday:

What about taking the cap off the payroll tax, which pays for Social Security? Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Warren Buffett, & Bill Gates don't pay any more for this tax than someone making $110,000 a year--not just the same rate, the entire *amount*. This is the most regressive tax in the U.S. tax system. Not only that, but when they collect Social Security, the payout *is* based on their salaries, so they get far more out than they put in. Why aren't Democrats publicizing this & pushing for removal of the cap?

Dec. 04 2012 10:24 AM
Robert from NYC

Well why do you all insist in include SS and Medicare in this argument on this problem when in fact neither of those programs affects the situation you are discussing!!! Get off it. It's the distraction the republicans bring up and you all fall for it.

Dec. 04 2012 10:23 AM
mejimenez from manhattan

Doesn't anybody understand marginal tax rates? It isn't a tax on people making more than $250K, it's a tax on the income over $250K. So people making more than $250K, people making more than $1M, and people making more than $1B will all enjoy the reduced tax rate for the first $250K like the rest of us.

Dec. 04 2012 10:23 AM

Your guest has lost all prospective if he truly believes that folks earning over $250,000 are not rich.

Dec. 04 2012 10:22 AM

@ TM from Workin'

"Love this guy! Well informed. Nonpartisan. Voice of reason."

Hard to read sarcasm without an emoticon.

Dec. 04 2012 10:22 AM

Pesca - You are letting this guy gish-gallup. Push a little harder, please.

For examples, taxes for the $250K earner go from 33 to 36%. You have to hit $389 to hit the 39.6 rate.

Do you job!!

Dec. 04 2012 10:20 AM
TM from Workin'

Love this guy! Well informed. Nonpartisan. Voice of reason.

Dec. 04 2012 10:20 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Dude is being nonresponsive to the question of why we shouldn't raise rates for chip-stackers (and stabilize the economy). Tax reform mumbo-jumbo is not an answer. The nonsense we tolerate...

Dec. 04 2012 10:17 AM
sp from nyc

1. Eliminate ALL deductions (that means mortgage, charity, child, state and local tax, business loopholes, etc.) If Congress really thinks something is worth supporting, they will have to appropriate funds for it openly and defend the decision. After all, every deduction someone gets means everyone else pays more, since government must still be funded.
2. Institute a single, progressive income tax that covers ALL income--there is no reason to tax income one does not work for (i.e., capital gains) at a lower rate than income one puts in time and effort to earn. Set these rates to actually cover our obligations. Now that the Supreme Court has recognized corporations as persons with equal free speech rights, tax them at the same rates as persons.
3. Disallow any political contributions from non-constituents--representative government can only function if those in office actually represent those who elected them rather than those with deep pockets. Set representative pay and privileges at the mean for their constituents.
The current system breeds distrust and contempt, as our purported representatives ignore their constituents in favor of their corporate paymasters, obscuring their bought-and-paid-for favors with endless, incomprehensible layers of taxes and deductions. Time to clean House (and Senate).

Dec. 04 2012 10:16 AM

What a yerk!

$100K small business owner sends 40.3 cents of the next dollar earned to the Federal government.

$1M 'earner' sends 35 cents.

Change the rates.

Dec. 04 2012 10:12 AM
C.E. Connelly from Manhattan

Come on! This is just more of the Frank Luntz talking points that we have heard for years and years.

"Broaden the base"=raise taxes on the middle class and working class too.

It's the same nonsense, rephrased, about how lower income people don't pay taxes.

Dec. 04 2012 10:12 AM

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