Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Off The Chain(ed CPI)

Even the Kroog thinks the President's latest deal sucks.  I'm going to have to say that like Paul Krugman, I'm not sure if going over the cliff is going to yield a better deal or not, so maybe we should wait and see what the final deal actually is before ordering the pitchforks and torches.

It sounds as if Ezra Klein is hearing more or less the same things I’m hearing: Republicans willing to give up a lot more on tax rates, although not fully undoing the Bush tax cuts in the 250-400 range; additional tax hikes via deduction limits in a form that hits the wealthy, not the upper middle class (28 percent and all that); unemployment extension and infrastructure spending; but “chained CPI” for Social Security, which is a benefit cut.

Unlike what we’d heard from Republicans before, this contains stuff that Obama can’t get just by letting us go over the cliff: more revenue than he could get just from tax-cut expiration, unemployment and infrastructure too. But it has a cost, those benefit cuts.

Those cuts are a very bad thing, although there will supposedly be some protection for low-income seniors. But the cuts are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age, for two reasons: the structure of the program remains intact, and unlike the Medicare age thing, they wouldn’t be totally devastating for hundreds of thousands of people, just somewhat painful for a much larger group. Oh, and raising the Medicare age would kill people; this benefit cut, not so much.

By recalculating benefits through chained CPI, it's lower income seniors who are going to get hurt here, they're looking at a 5% cut or more in SS benefits.  It would also constitute a tax increase of a couple hundred bucks a year on most American households. I'm sure the President thinks it's a partial giveback on the payroll tax cuts, and it is, and it does sound reasonable...but reasonable gets punished later.

In other words this doesn't look like an awesome way to start a second term.  We'll see what the final deal is.  If this is the final deal, I'm thinking it's not a good one.

At all.  I'm trusting the President to get a better one, and that better part I'm suspecting is in the details that we don't know about yet.

Catch And Release

NBC News's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, on assignment in Syria, has been released unharmed after five days of captivity by an "unknown" group operating in the war-torn country.

Engel, 39, has been reporting on the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011.

"After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed," NBC said in a statement. "We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country."

The Syrian government has made it difficult for foreign journalists and citizens to report on what is happening in Syria.

Those journalists whom the regime has allowed in are tightly controlled in their movements by Information Ministry minders. Other foreign journalists sneak into Syria illegally with the help of smugglers.

Engel is lucky, too.  Syria has been one of the deadliest assignments for journalists in the world in the last 18 months or so.

Several journalists have been killed covering the conflict. Among them are award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier, photographer Remi Ochlik and Britain's Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin. Also, Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died after a severe asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.

I'm glad Engel is safe, and I'm sure there's a hell of a story there that we'll here in due time.


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