Obama Plays Financial Terrorism, threatens Social Security

ABC
July 12, 2011

President Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3 if Democrats and Republicans in Washington do not reach an agreement on reducing the deficit in the coming weeks.

“I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.

The Obama administration and many economists have warned of economic catastrophe if the United States does not raise the amount it is legally allowed to borrow by August 2.

Lawmakers from both parties want to use the threat of that deadline to work out a broader package on long-term deficit reduction, with Republicans looking to cut trillions of dollars in federal spending, while Democrats are pushing for a more “balanced approach,” which would include both spending cuts and increased revenue through taxes.

The Debt Limit fight: A primer

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are expected to hold another round of negotiations with Mr. Obama at the White House Tuesday afternoon on long-term deficit reduction, though talks have yielded little results to date.

Mr. Obama told Pelley “this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out.”

The interview will air Tuesday evening on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.

Mr. Obama’s comments followed remarks from the Senate’s top Republican, who said Tuesday that he did not see a way for Republicans and Democrats to come to agreement on meaningful deficit reduction as long as Mr. Obama remains in office.

“After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor.

Still, McConnell said Republicans would “do the responsible thing” to avoid default, suggesting that a deal on the debt ceiling could be reached without a “real” deficit reduction package.

“The president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. Republicans choose none of the above. I had hoped to do good, but I refuse to do harm. So Republicans will choose a path that actually reflects the will of the people, which is to do the responsible thing and ensure that the government doesn’t default on its obligations,” he said.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly said he wants a deal that would allow the U.S. to avoid confronting the issue again until after the 2012 elections and vowed on Monday that he would “not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension.”

“This the United States of America and, you know, we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments. You know, we don’t risk U.S. default on our obligations because we can’t put politics aside,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House yesterday.

Obama, Dems skirt issue on tax hikes

by Erica Werner
AP
July 11, 2011

Call it eliminating an unfair break, or removing an unjust loophole, or even “taking a balanced approach.” Just don’t call it raising taxes.

As they work toward a must-do deal with Republicans on paring trillions from the deficit in order to raise the nation’s debt limit, President Barack Obama and Democrats are saying almost anything to avoid the politically toxic pronouncement that they want to increase taxes.

Republicans, for their part, are just as quick to declare elimination of the most rarefied corporate benefit a job-killing tax hike on the American people.

It’s all about winning the public relations debate over the debt limit, and in turn, perhaps, gaining a more politically advantageous outcome in the resulting deal itself.

“We’re at a point where there’s no good tax,” said Joseph J. Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at the nonprofit group Tax Analysts. “The sort of value proposition of a tax has been destroyed, so nobody wants to say it, nobody wants to say in any fashion that they support it except, because it polls well, taxing the rich.”

Taxes are hardly the only issue going through the partisan spin cycle — and emerging virtually unrecognizable — as the days tick down to an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit or face unprecedented default. Take Social Security. Obama is insisting he won’t agree to “slash” benefits — a vague word the White House refuses to define, thus leaving room for benefits to be cut without ever saying it.

Then there’s the debt limit itself. Listen to Republicans, and the whole problem was created by out-of-control spending that now demands to be addressed. Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to cast the issue as a question of whether or not the U.S. will make good on its obligations.

But it’s on taxes that the rhetoric is the most heated, and the most skewed. Analysts say that in recent decades Republicans have largely succeeded in turning taxes into a dirty word, and the government it pays for is increasingly viewed with disfavor, too. So that even while voters like some of the taxpayer-funded services they get — like Social Security — arguing in favor of taxes per se is a nonstarter.

For opponents, “it’s an easy argument to win because nobody wants to pay higher taxes,” said Brendan Daly, former spokesman to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and now a public relations executive at Ogilvy Washington.

Proposals under consideration include raising taxes on small business owners and potentially low- and middle-income families. You won’t hear about that from Obama. Instead the president focuses on the very rich, and speaks euphemistically. Here are a few of the phrases the president has used of late to talk about what amounts to raising taxes for some:

— “What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table.”

–“We need to take on spending in the tax code.”

“The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.”

–“You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix.”

And here’s how Republicans respond:

–“Tax hikes on families and job creators would only make things worse.” — House Speaker John Boehner.

–“The focus for us is to make sure that we are not increasing taxes on individuals who are the job creators, and like it or not, the job creators are those who can be successful in a small business context.” — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

–“Democrats seem to think the solution to our debt crisis is to ask taxpayers and struggling businesses to reward their economic stewardship with even more money to spend as they please.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

U2 Fans want Bono to Pay his Taxes

U2 was accused of donating only 1 percent of the monies collected through Bono’s ONE organization.

AP
June 24, 2011

U2 and its frontman Bono, known for their global poverty-fighting efforts, were accused of dodging taxes in Ireland by activists who crashed their performance at England’s Glastonbury festival.

The anti-capitalist group Art Uncut inflated a 6-metre balloon emblazoned with the message “U Pay Your Tax 2.” Security guards wrestled them to the ground before deflating the balloon and taking it away. About 30 people were involved in the angry clash.

Bono fan Gary Noble, 45, said he found the security response “all a bit shocking.”

“I love U2 but I think everyone should pay their taxes. The campaigners have a right to voice their opinion,” he said.

Art Uncut argues that while Bono campaigns against poverty in the developing world, his group has avoided paying Irish taxes at a time when his austerity-hit country desperately needs money.

Ireland, which has already accepted an international bailout, is suffering through deep spending cuts, tax hikes and rising unemployment as it tries to pull the debt-burdened economy back from brink of bankruptcy.”

Tax(es) nestling in the band’s bank account should be helping to keep open the hospitals, schools and libraries that are closing all over Ireland,” Art Uncut member Charlie Dewar said ahead of the protest.

U2, the country’s most successful band, was heavily criticised in 2006 for moving its corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

Bono, guitarist The Edge and U2’s other members – bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen – are among the country’s wealthiest residents. Forbes magazine has estimated the band earned $US195 million ($A185.68 million) last year, mostly through its hugely profitable 360 Degrees world tour.

It’s not known how much personal income tax the band members pay in Ireland.

During the years when Ireland was a booming “Celtic Tiger” economy, the members of U2 invested in a wide range of Dublin properties, including a luxury riverside hotel and a planned Norman Foster-designed skyscraper on the River Liffey. Plans for the “U2 Tower” were shelved when property prices collapsed in 2008.

U2 is headlining the first night of the three-day Glastonbury festival, its first appearance at Britain’s most prestigious summer music event. The band was due to perform last year but had to pull out after Bono injured his back.

Some 170,000 people have descended on a farm in southwest England for the extravaganza, which includes sets by Morrissey, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, Beyonce and scores of other acts.

Rubber boots are the fashion item of choice after heavy rain turned the 364-hectare site into a mudbath. More rain is forecast.