Now the Battle Over the Debt Ceiling

By Robert Reich

"It's not all I would have liked," says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking of the deal on the fiscal cliff, "so on to the debt ceiling."

The battle over the fiscal cliff was only a prelude to the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling - a battle that will likely continue through early March, when the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default on the nation's debt.

The White House's and Democrats' single biggest failure in the cliff negotiations was not getting Republicans' agreement to raise the debt ceiling.

The last time the debt ceiling had to be raised, in 2011, Republicans demanded major cuts in programs for the poor as well as Medicare and Social Security.

What California Can Teach America About Stopping Extremist Obstruction

By Robert Cruickshank

If you read Calitics at any time between 2007 and 2010, you'd have seen a site focused on the same problem now facing the country as a whole: how to keep a government, an economy, and a society functioning in the face of Republican obstruction. The latest nonsense surrounding the so-called "fiscal cliff" shows that the House Republicans have learned well from their Sacramento counterparts. The method is the same: make Democrats do what they otherwise would not do by threatening to block passage of crucial legislation, then up the ante by rejecting initial deals and demanding even more once Democrats have shown they will make concessions to avoid the predicted disaster that comes with legislative inaction. The resulting deals were destructive to the state's economy and safety net, worsening the already bad financial and social crisis.

Take Action: End the Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest Two Percent

By Pablo Rodríguez

Thanks to Speaker John Boehner and Congressional Republicans holding the U.S. economy hostage during the debt-ceiling debacle in the summer of 2011, a package of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as the 'fiscal cliff' are less than three weeks away. And once again, Speaker of the House John Boehner insists on fighting for billionaires and once again holds our families hostage while he lectures on the virtues of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

But allowing taxes to go up on middle class Americans would be devastating - both for families who are already struggling to make ends meet and for our economy.

Democrats to Balance Supermajority Power and Budget Needs with Voter Scrutiny

By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report

A piece in the Sunday New York Times by Adam Nagourney highlighted the new supermajority status of California's Democratic Party, and the fact that lawmakers and the executive branch are wary of the potential voter backlash if Democrats flex their new political muscle too aggressively on issues of new taxation aimed at closing the state's still-considerable revenue gap. Despite a legislature long-dominated by the Democratic Party, this degree control by one party has not been seen in the state for over three-quarters of a century. As Nagourney notes:

This does not appear to be a passing advantage. Even Republicans say that changes in electoral demographics mean that, with the exception of a few brief lapses caused by vacancies, Democrats could hold a supermajority at least through the end of the decade.

Yet in the "be careful what you wish for" department, Democrats are beginning to confront the struggles and complications that come with being in charge of the store. This authority came at least two years earlier than most Democrats had projected. And it is unleashing years of pent-up Democratic desires - to roll back spending cuts, approve a bond issue to rebuild the state's water system, amend the state's tax code, revamp California's governance system - that had been largely checked by the Republican minority.

Givers, Takers, and Voters

By Steve Hochstadt

In May, Mitt Romney told an audience of big donors in Florida that 47 percent of Americans would vote for President Obama because they pay no income tax, are dependent on government, believe they are victims, and feel “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Romney said these people are hopeless: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When a video of this speech was made public in September, Romney stood by his remarks. After he lost the election, he repeated this claim by attributing his defeat to the big “gifts” that Democrats had given and promised to “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Two-Thirds Rule Makes Transit Funding Proposals Worse, Not Better

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week I made the case for restoring democracy to transit funding decisions in California. A Democratic State Senator is proposing exactly that, offering a constitutional amendment that would reduce the requirement for passing a transit tax from 66.7% to 55%. But apparently some folks still seem to believe that a two-thirds requirement is somehow good for transit funding initiatives.

Red State, Blue State

By Steve Hochstadt

I just spent a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, giving a talk about my research on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who spent the war in Shanghai. I was barely a mile from Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

South Carolina is one of the reddest states, giving 55 percent of its votes to Romney. Now I'm back at home in Illinois, one of the bluer states, so safe for Democrats that Obama did not even campaign in his home state. Red state, blue state - what's the difference?

California Legislature Must Restore Democracy to Transit Funding

By Robert Cruickshank

Two pieces of transit funding news came out of Los Angeles today. The first is that the L.A. Streetcar won its vote among downtown property owners to create a local taxing district and raise $125 million in revenue to begin building a streetcar line.

Unfortunately, we also learned that Measure J, the Los Angeles County Metro transit tax extension that would have helped deliver more rail projects sooner “failed.” It received 66.11% of the vote, a huge landslide victory in almost any other race. But because of the rule requiring a two-thirds vote for most local taxes, Measure J had to get 66.66%.

The Upcoming Battle over Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

By Jackie Tortora

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid aren't just numbers on a budget line, they're vital family protection lifelines for working people.

As many as 55.4 million Americans across the United States receive monthly Social Security checks, including 8.6 million workers with disabilities and 4.4 million children. A total of 48.7 million Americans get their health care coverage from Medicare and 64.4 million Americans get their health care coverage from Medicaid, including 29.8 million children and 4.2 million seniors.

Lincoln, Health Reform, and the Hard Work of Politics

By Anthony Wright

The new movie Lincoln, remarkable in so many ways, is not primarily about Civil War re-enactments, an unlikely election campaign, or a shocking assassination, but about the more mundane work of politics, policy, and passing legislation.

If nothing else, it reminds those of us who work in politics that merely being right is often not enough to make progress. There is perhaps no more clear-cut moral issue than the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. But passing the amendment took power and persuasion, personality and perseverance.