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The House Goes Home for Christmas: Its Top Priorities: Slash Health Care, Nutrition, and Federal Pay, Raise Taxes on Working Fam

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, congress, corruption, ethics, dishonesty, economy, government, healthcare, lies, healthcare, Govtfearmongering, media, politics, housing, freedoms, propaganda, socialsecurity, republicans, usa, military, war )

- 1946 days ago -
If you are reading this, the world did not come to an end on December 21. Congressional action did, though, at least through Christmas.

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JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:36 pm
Article from the December 21, 2012 edition of the CHN Human Needs Report:

The House Goes Home for Christmas: Its Top Priorities: Slash Health Care, Nutrition, and Federal Pay, Raise Taxes on Working Families, Preserve Pentagon Spending, and No Fingerprints on Tax Increases Even for the Very Rich

IfIf you are reading this, the world did not come to an end on December 21. Congressional action did, though, at least through Christmas. Despite predictions by Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) that there would be enough Republican votes for Boehner’s plan to raise tax rates on income over $1 million, their caucus rebelled. Without enough votes for passage, Speaker Boehner cancelled the vote, and the House went home. They might come back before New Year’s, if a deal can be put together to avert the spending cuts, tax increases, and loss of unemployment benefits for 2 million long-term jobless people that will mark the start of 2013.

The House did cast votes on Thursday evening. They re-adopted a bill they had passed last spring, which replaced the $110 billion in automatic spending cuts scheduled to start January 1 with a large number of domestic cuts. That bill went nowhere last spring, and the President and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) confirmed its fate will be the same now. The new-old bill, The Spending Reduction Act of 2012 (H.R. 6684), passed 215-209, with no Democrats voting for it and 21 Republicans joining all 188 Democrats to oppose.

The bill was not originally part of Speaker Boehner’s plan for Thursday. He had hoped there would be enough support to pass an amendment he called “Plan B”, continuing the current tax rates for everybody except millionaires, whose income tax rates would rise to where they were before the Bush tax cuts were enacted. Because other favorable treatment for millionaires and multi-million dollar estates would remain, those with incomes over $1 million would still get tax cuts averaging $50,000 each. Treatment of 25 million low-income working families with children was not so favorable – they would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,000 each. (For more detail, see below.) Even Grover Norquist, originator of the anti-tax pledge that has a stranglehold on most Republicans, said that passing Boehner’s “Plan B” would be okay, because it would be preventing a tax increase on everybody else. But that wasn’t enough to gather the near-unanimity among Republicans necessary to pass Boehner’s bill with little or no Democratic support.

Republican House members either objected to raising any taxes on anyone, balked at passing something that did nothing to stop the looming Pentagon and domestic spending cuts, or both. To mollify enough of them, the Speaker agreed to let the House vote again on the bill to replace the “sequester,” or automatic spending cuts. In voting for this, the majority made its priorities clear. The bill would eliminate all the $55 billion in Pentagon sequestration cuts in 2013 and would replace about $38.5 billion in across-the-board cuts to domestic appropriations, in part by substituting $19.1 billion in spending reductions to be achieved by lowering the total cap on appropriations for FY 2013. Medicare cuts of about $16 billion that were originally included in sequestration would stay in place. The money lost by stopping the Pentagon cuts and some of the domestic reductions would be made up (and then some) by more than $217 billion in cuts over 10 years to SNAP/food stamps, Medicaid, premium subsidies and other funding for the new health care law, the Child Tax Credit, and several consumer protection measures. It also raised nearly $88 billion in revenues over 10 years by requiring federal employees to pay more of their retirement costs. (More details about these provisions below.)

But although the House passed these spending cuts, it did not win over enough Republicans to get a majority for the Plan B increase in millionaire tax rates.

So what’s next? Despite repeated assertions on the House floor by House Budget Committee Chair Ryan (R-WI) and others that President Obama has not come out with specific spending cut proposals in his deficit reduction plan, the President has put forth several offers in his negotiations with Speaker Boehner. The President’s most recent proposal includes tax cuts for everyone, but reduces the tax breaks at the top, for a new revenue total of $1.2 trillion over ten years, and cuts spending by $930 billion, plus another $290 billion in debt interest savings. Some of the savings are highly controversial among Democrats (see below). If a solution is to be found, either before or soon after the beginning of the new year, it appears less likely to be achieved by legislation that can draw majority Republican support in the House. Another option – passing a plan in the House with bipartisan support (lots of Democrats and some Republicans. It remains to be seen whether Speaker Boehner will exercise leadership in pressing for that, or leave it to others to work around him. In announcing the House’s departure, the Speaker did not seem to be signing up for a renewed battle to win over his caucus. Instead, he said “Now it is up to the president to work with Sen. Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”


Taxes were a major issue during the Presidential campaign with a focus on the ’01 and ’03 Bush-era income tax rates set to expire at the end of this year. On November 14, newly off an election victory where he campaigned for higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 and with opinion polls solidly favoring his position, the President at his first post-election news conference reiterated his position on income tax rates and pressed for $1.6 trillion in revenue as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction deal. Democrats were buoyed by the President’s approach. Republicans had strongly resisted any increase in personal income tax rates but some conceded that the election results would likely mean rates for high-income taxpayers would go up. Others pressed for no rate increases and instead talked in vague terms about tax reform that included closing unspecified tax loopholes and ending some tax deductions. In return they also wanted deep cuts in spending.

The President presented a more detailed deficit reduction plan on November 29, outlining nearly $1.6 trillion in addition tax revenue over 10 years. Tax rates for income of less than $250,000 would remain the same while the two top rates of 33 and 35 percent would revert back to 36 and 39.6 percent; the rate on capital gains would increase from 15 percent to 20 percent and dividends from 15 percent to the ordinary income tax rate; the maximum value of tax deductions would be lowered to 28 percent (someone in the 35 percent tax bracket can currently deduct up to 35 cents for every dollar in deductions) and additional limits would be placed on itemized deductions for higher-income taxpayers; and the estate tax would revert back from its current $5 million exemption level and maximum rate of 35 percent to its 2009 exemption level of $3.5 million and 45 percent maximum rate . The tax package would also continue the expansions made in the 2009 economic recovery act to the refundable Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income working families; extend for one year the 2 percent payroll tax cut for individuals; provide a one-year fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax (ATM), keeping new taxpayers from being hit with an average income tax increase of $2,250 according to the Tax Policy Center; and extend a number of business tax breaks.

In response to the President’s plan Speaker Boehner, the Republicans’ lead negotiator in deficit reduction talks with the President, offered $800 billion in revenue through limiting tax expenditures in tax reform that would occur next year. His plan did not specify which tax expenditures would be limited. Many of the most costly expenditures in terms of lost revenue are very popular and have powerful lobby shops supporting them, for example the home mortgage interest deduction, making them politically difficult to reduce significantly.

Under earlier House Republican tax proposals and plans proposed by Speaker Boehner, the 2009 improvements in the Child Tax Credit and EITC would be allowed to expire. This means that 12 million families benefiting from the Child Tax Credit would see their taxes go up by $800, on average. Six million families would pay an average $500 tax increase because of cuts to the EITC.

In early December deficit reduction talks between Speaker Boehner and the President continued. On December 17, the President presented a new proposal containing both new savings on the spending side and a reduction in revenue. The proposal reduced revenue by increasing from $250,000 to $400,000 the income threshold at which the lower tax rates would be extended. The 33 percent income tax rate would be extended rather than reverting back to 36 percent.

Speaker Boehner seemed to be making a significant move toward the President on revenue when he indicated that he would let tax rates on income over $1 million expire. However, coupled with extending the Bush-era tax rates on income up to $1 million, extending limits on certain tax deductions set to end on January 1, taxing dividends at 20 percent rather than at the rate of regular income, and continuing the current generous estate tax provisions, people with incomes of over $1 million would receive an average tax cut of $108,500 according to the Tax Policy Center.

In a high-risk strategy Speaker Boehner decided to take this so-called “Plan B” to floor of the House for a vote on December 20. When conservative Republicans revolted, Speaker Boehner pulled the bill knowing that it would not pass. It is not yet clear what the impact of his failure to pass the bill will have on future talks with the President. Democrats and the White House are urging him to return to the negotiating table with the President.

See Citizens for Tax Justice report from December 20 comparing Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” and the President’s original and December 17 proposals at:

The Real Cliff: Unemployment Insurance About to Expire, Leaving 2 Million With No Help

The House spectacle before the abrupt departure was remarkable both in showing what the majority wanted to do and what it didn’t care to tackle. Although 4 in 10 of the unemployed today have been out of work for more than six months (most for more than a year), and have run out of state unemployment benefits, the House took no action to continue the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for the long-term jobless. It will expire at the end of December. Two million will be denied unemployment benefits right away, followed by another million by the end of the March in 2013. The proportion of the long-term unemployed has risen dramatically over the years. After the 1980’s recession, 26 percent of the unemployed were out of work six months or more. The President’s plan includes the extension of unemployment benefits for a year, at a cost of $33 billion.

Shrinking the Adjustment for Inflation: “The Chained CPI”

One of the most controversial provisions in President Obama’s deficit reduction package is a change in the way the Consumer Price Index (CPI) would be calculated for purposes of calculating benefits for Social Security, and also affecting many other low-income programs that rely on annual inflation adjustments for eligibility or benefit levels. In what ultimately turned out to be abortive negotiations with Speaker Boehner, the President responded to the demand that benefits to entitlement programs be cut by agreeing to this change, which is called the “chained CPI.” It reduces the inflation rate by assuming that when certain prices go up, consumers are likely to switch to other comparable but cheaper products. Some research questions whether the elderly, or low-income people generally are able to make such substitutions as easily as the population as a whole. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, after 10 years, the Chained CPI would result in a 3 percent cut in Social Security benefits, about 6 percent after 20 years, and nearly 9 percent after 30 years. For an average worker retiring at 65, this reduced measure of inflation would result in benefits being cut $1,130 a year at age 85. Women would be disproportionately affected, because they live longer and are more likely to be poor. The Administration’s Chained CPI proposal, which is estimated to save $130 billion over 10 years, does provide exemptions for low-income elderly and disabled making use of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but that alone does not offer adequate protection to low-income people. If the revised calculation is applied to the federal poverty guidelines, it will lower the annual increases in the poverty line, which would be likely to reduce benefits or shrink eligibility for means-tested programs. Many progressive groups, including labor, have strenuously opposed making use of the Chained CPI.

SNAP in Farm Bill and House Bill

Prospects for a 5-year reauthorization of a farm bill including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) before this Congress ends on January 2 has all but disappeared. There is not time for action on a separate bill and prospects for attaching it to the elusive larger deficit reduction package are fading. The full Senate passed a 5- year farm bill extension in June with $23 billion in savings over 10 years, including $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. In July the House Agriculture Committee approved bipartisan farm bill legislation with $35 billion in savings over 10 years, including $16 billion in cuts to SNAP. The House Republican leadership has refused to allow a floor vote to happen because some Republicans want deeper cuts to SNAP while many Democrats do not support any cuts to the program. The commodities provisions in the two bills that subsidize farmers also split members, more along geographic than party lines. The Senate bill tends to favor northern commodities like corn and soybeans and the House bill rice, peanuts and wheat grown in the southern states.

Absent a full reauthorization, there is faint hope that a shorter-term extension of the current farm bill might pass. The SNAP program will continue to operate uninterrupted without an extension of the full bill because the rules governing the program will not expire and funding was included in the continuing resolution through March 2013. However, some programs would be affected. Dairy subsidies would revert back to a 1949 law, likely doubling milk prices. Dairy products are a large portion of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) federally-funded nutrition program, and the price increase would lessen the buying power of WIC recipients.

The Spending Reduction Act passed by the House on Thursday night included $32.3 billion in cuts to SNAP/food stamps. The House majority would return SNAP benefits to their old level of about $1.30 per meal, an amount judged by nutrition experts to be inadequate. While current law would have started that reduction in November of 2013, this bill moves it up to February. Recent analysis estimates that this cut will result in a loss of $8 - $10 per person per month. The House will also deny SNAP to 2 million people who now get benefits because their low incomes qualify them for programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This change will also result in 280,000 low-income children losing free school meals. In addition, the House agreed to make it harder to streamline eligibility for SNAP benefits, which now can be received without additional documentation if certain households already qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (expected to cut assistance to 1.8 million individuals). This change will also result in 280,000 low-income children losing free school meals. These restrictions were estimated last spring to save $11.7 billion over 10 years. Further, this bill would reduce SNAP benefits to people who now receive a small benefit from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, said last spring to reduce SNAP spending by over $14 billion. Despite this time of high unemployment, the House would drop certain federal spending for SNAP employment and training programs (saving about $3.1 billion over 10 years) and would end federal bonus payments to states to encourage good performance in administering SNAP.

Health Care Spending Reductions

The President’s most recent offer calls for $400 billion in savings in health care programs over 10 years, said to come mainly from Medicare, with relatively little from Medicaid (although details were not available). The House Spending Reduction Act keeps the $16 billion in Medicare cuts scheduled to take place as part of the automatic FY 2013 cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act ( 2011 legislation that set up the “sequestration” cuts to start in January 2013 if Congress could not agree on a deficit reduction plan). In addition, the House bill slashes health care premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for 350,000 people, and cut Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico and other territories even though Puerto Rico, despite its disproportionate poverty, receives far lower federal Medicaid payments than any state (a high of 35 percent in 2010; states receive no less than 50 percent of Medicaid costs). The amendment also allows states to make cuts in their Medicaid programs below the levels in place when the Affordable Care Act passed, which could reduce eligibility or benefits for millions of people. Further, it includes a number of funding cuts aimed at undermining the Affordable Care Act (the major new health care legislation now being implemented). These savings are estimated at $47.3 billion over ten years by the Congressional Budget Office.

The President’s plan is said to assume at least one-year funding for continued higher payment levels to physicians under Medicare. Their payments were supposed to be cut by Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reductions passed by Congress some years ago, but Congress has not been willing to implement these cuts.

Debt Ceiling

President Obama has been emphatic in not wanting to undergo another crisis negotiation in which Republicans insist on spending reductions commensurate with increases in the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is expected to be reached within the next month or two. If Congress does not authorize continued borrowing, the crisis would stall spending, spook federal bond-holders, with threats of catastrophe for our economy, according to people like Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. Holding spending on domestic priorities hostage to deeper and deeper cuts to get the debt ceiling increased would be very dangerous to human needs programs. Obama’s position initially would have reduced Congress’ role in debt ceiling increases permanently; more recent proposals have called for a two-year debt ceiling increase.


The President’s most recent offer called for cuts of $100 billion to defense and $100 billion to non-defense appropriations over 10 years, beyond the $1.5 trillion in cuts to these programs already set in motion over the next decade. These cuts are much lower than the approximately $1 trillion in additional Pentagon, domestic, and international program cuts that are now scheduled to start in January and continue over 10 years. Still, domestic appropriations are being cut deeply already, affecting education, housing, child care, WIC, Head Start, home energy assistance, and much more, and many groups oppose any further cuts. On the other hand, many military spending experts believe that much more could be cut from military spending than the $100 billion called for in the President’s plan.

As noted above, the House spending reduction bill cuts appropriations by another $19.1 billion in FY 2013 by lowering the appropriations cap by that amount. The bill also prohibits further military cuts.

Arielle S (313)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:57 pm
A lot of good information, J.L. -thank you. Perhaps it is time for the citizens, especially those who will be most affected, to grab their pitchforks and storm the Castle of Congress? Oh, wait, there's nobody there...Is there an award for most worthless Congressional folk ever?

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:10 pm
You are welcome Arielle. Perhaps the storming needs to be at all the local offices (if they are open). You cannot currently send a star to Arielle because you have done so within the last week.

Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:23 pm
Long but informative read...and so it seems that the bottom line is...WTF we know what isn't going on but what is ?
Guess Congress has their big fat lobbiest bonus checks in hand and so party time and shop'n time is more important that tending to the peoples ..oooops...error...correction ...I mean tending to corporate business is.

Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:28 pm
Perhaps we take a no confidence vote on Jan. 2nd ? Then hold a special election in Feb. to replace the dead weight GOP so that we can get on with the nations recovery..along with banning military style firearms/ammo,end the Bush Tax cuts and inform the Corporations that they must bring back jobs or be charged huge wind fall taxes along with fee's for every personel they have not located in the U.S.


Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:30 pm
..oh yes..and send in the Feds. with arrest warrents for a whole lots of Wall Streets crime syndicate. By Spring we might just have things back on track and able to more forward with our recovery.

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 1:41 pm
I share your frustration Jae and you do highlight why other countries have the no confidence vote option when their representatives aren't doing their jobs of governing...I suspect we'd have to take it through the Constitutional Amendment process to have that option here on a national scale.

Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 2:13 pm
..this all a fantasy anywho. The more we try the harder they fail ! Same ol same ol GOP corporate/privatizing trail......

Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 2:16 pm
Top side is , if they haven't caused us an all out depression by 2014 we will see them going by the way of the Whig party, as another mentioned on a different thread :-) . It's their last chance and so far they are screwing it up for everyone...especially themselves.

Jae A (316)
Monday December 24, 2012, 2:21 pm
That "especially themselves"...I mean that as their political futures. Of couse they could just bankrupt the nation and retire with all the gut'd funds they manage to funnel into their accounts via corporate shares...perhaps that's what they are aiming for instead of a depression ........

...yep..another big ........sigh.

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 2:42 pm
Seems that next month holds the opportunity to see power shifts that could break gridlock Jae--a precursor for what 2014 can bring.

Roseann d (178)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:53 pm
I'll betcha they have no intentions of slashing their own federal pay. How much do you want to bet, that's not on the chopping block?

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 9:10 pm
I suspect you are right Roseann. You cannot currently send a star to Roseann because you have done so within the last week.

Mike M (43)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:04 pm
Thanks It is time the people spoke their mind and made the house work for the people not the corporations, elites and themselves and there corrupt little buddies

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 5:48 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Mike because you have done so within the last week.

Billie C (2)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 9:52 pm
lets go off the cliff then work backwards to fix things. there is no way they are going to really fix things. they will come up with some stupid stop gap that gets us nowhere.
our government is full of waste and stupid tax laws. it all needs to be cleaned up. those idiots couldn't even pass an aid bill for sandy folks without putting in tons of pork. time to bite the bullet and fix things right not put more band aids on it.
our kids and grandkids need to have a country not greece to look forward to.

Dorothy N (63)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:45 pm
President Obama is more of a strategist than many of us have been giving him credit for, although we should have learnt by now...

Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:11 AM PST
WSJ: Fiscal cliff talks broke down on Monday; Obama goes Corleone on the DWOL

by gf120581

This is rather interesting. The WSJ has a lengthy article out today that supposedly shows how we've gotten to the point we are in the fiscal cliff negotiations. And if true, it kind of makes even bigger fools of those of us who went into hysterics over Obama's supposed cave on Social Security in his latest compromise offer. Because according to the WSJ, the serious talks broke down on Monday.

In truth, talks to secure a big deficit-reduction deal had already broken down Monday afternoon in the office of Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio), a Wall Street Journal reconstruction shows.

And even better about this story, it shows Obama going all Michael Corleone on the Drunk, Weepy Oompa-Loompa:

Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Obal office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inagural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault. At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"
"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free."

In other words:

"My offer is this. Nothing. Nothing except the tax hikes on the rich, which I would appreciate if you offered to me personally.

Want more? Here's Obama offering the DWOL a helpful little reminder.

The president repeatedly reminded Mr. Boehner of the election results: "You're asking me to accept Mitt Romney's tax plan. Why would I do that?"

And this section in particular made me laugh, because it shows (a) the depths of the DWOL's and indeed Republicans' delusion and (b) Obama's proper attitude toward it.
The president told him he could choose one of two doors. The first represented a big deal. If Mr. Boehner chose it, the president said, the country and financial markets would cheer. Door No. 2 represented a spike in interest rates and a global recession. Mr. Boehner said he wanted a deal along the lines of what the two men had negotiated in the summer of 2011 in a fight over raising the debt ceiling. "You missed your opportunity on that," the president told him.
Sorry, DWOL. You don't get a do-over. Reading this article, it's pretty obvious Obama had no real faith in the DWOL's ability to get his caucus to agree on anything. Indeed, it gives more support to my belief that the deal offer he made that got so many of us riled up was nothing more than a show to prove to the public that he was willing to compromise and be serious about avoiding the cliff, while the GOP is not. And thanks to the events of Thursday, he had done that in spades. ...

Ro H (0)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:23 am
so sad

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:40 am
Thanks Dorothy for adding the HuffPost article to provide extra illumination! A green star headed your way. John, it is sad the House chose to do naught for their pay despite their oaths of office.
You cannot currently send a star to Ro because you have done so within the last week.

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:48 am
Kudos to Dorothy - I love your post and agree. Sorry, John, I don't begrudge the president his vacation - why are you angry with him? It's our magnificent Congress you should be furious with.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:00 am
I agree Arielle and thank you for your respectful questions to John.You cannot currently send a star to Arielle because you have done so within the last week.

Faye Swan (23)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:56 am
So much to take in but I do think that Obama is doing his best. I wouldn't object to his vacation. Green star to Arielle and others on your behalf as well as mine, J.L.!

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 9:54 am
Thanks so much Faye! You cannot currently send a star to Faye because you have done so within the last week.

David Menard (43)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 1:11 pm
The GOP and Tbags are the political and moral equivilent of the avian flu or SARS a virulent plague.

Dianna M (16)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 3:07 pm
Dear John: Bush spent more on flights to Texas than Obama's Christmas vacation costs. From PoliticusUSA: “He [Bush] was the most expensive vacation president in US history. Not only did Bush spend more days on vacation than any other president, but he used Air Force One more often while on vacation than any other president.

During Bush’s two terms, the cost of operating Air Force One ranged from $56,800 to $68,000 an hour. Bush used Air Force One 77 times to go to his ranch in Crawford, TX. Using the low end cost of $56,800, Media Matters calculated that each trip to Crawford cost taxpayers $259,687 each time, and $20 million total for Bush’s ranch flights.

If cost of the flight was the only expense involved to taxpayers Bush’s vacations would still seem rather economical, but there is more, much more. Unlike the Obama’s $4 million Christmas vacation price tag, which includes the cost of everything from transportation to accommodations for the First Family, the White House staff, and the White House press corps, Bush’s numbers only include the cost of flying the president to Crawford. The cost of transporting and accommodating staff, media, friends and family is not included in Bush’s vacation numbers.”

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 4:53 pm
Thanks for this excellent article, J.L. *I'm sorry I'm unable to send you a green star since I previously sent one in the past week. Also, another star for Dorothy N.--certainly presents a different take on the issue.
I'm still hopeful for the best turnout, and that the Pres. I voted for will listen to the needs of the majority of the people....rather than the wants of the wealthiest. All of our letters, e.mails and phone calls are recorded....and I've read that many, many people have contacted the White House and signed petitions. He asked us to "hold his feet to the fire" and I believe we're now doing that, and must be persistent.

Dorothy N (63)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 5:57 pm

This so-typical right-wing fuss over the cost of President Obama's well-earned, if grossly truncated, Christmas vacation annoyed me, so thought I'd see if I could look into it a bit - before some oddball FOXy 'facts' surface about taxpayers paying for the family doubles to vacation there while the President and family actually go to Kenya, or whatever else will inevitably follow, if it hasn't already.

I may very well have missed something, pretty tired and groggy and the coffee doesn't seem to be doing it for me, so if anyone would like to retrace my steps or, likely, come up with a better search skills, and find a link to an actual Air Force estimate or announcement, I'd be grateful.

All I could find was the Huffington Post article from last year, which is based on estimates made by the Hawaii Reporter, the article name not given nor any link provided, that I (caveat - over-tired and might easily have missed) could find.

Obama Hawaii Vacation Costs Tax Payers $4 Million; A Look At The President's Past Hawaii Vacations (PHOTOS)
First Posted: 12/20/11

The Obamas will once again vacation in Hawaii over the holidays this year, but this time it will be a bit more expensive than previous trips.

The Hawaii Reporter writes that the President and First Lady's separate trips to Hawaii (Michelle and the girls arrived Friday; check out photos of President Obama arriving last year here) as well as the extended stay of the vacation will cost American tax payers nearly $4 million, roughly $2.5 million more than the President's 2010 trip.

The Hawaii Reporter states that the Obamas are not staying at the "Winter White House" (check out video of it here) this year and instead have rented and paid for their own accommodations in the form of a beach front rental on Kailua. The President's staff and White House Press Corp will be put up at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin resort on Waikiki Beach....

Found the article referenced in HuffPost at:

There is a link through this sentence: 'The U.S. Air Force has listed the cost of travel as high as $181,757 per flight hour. ... which links not to the Air Force estimate, but to FOX News.

The link in that article leads not to an Air Force estimate, but to a FOX News site on Air Force One:

A link given there leads not to an Air Force estimate but to a wiki on Air Force One:

This gives some history, but no official estimates of costs, as far as I can see.

Too tired to keep poking around too much more, this being my excuse to absorb caffeine before I get to a LOT of stuff I should be doing right now, so if anyone can track down an official source - this may well be an accurate estimate of costs but I refuse to take FOX News as a single source on something being used to stir up outrage against President Obama.

I found this current, 2012 article - look at the attitude of contempt displayed toward their own American First Lady - at Christmas, yet - while vacationing apart from her (yet-again) Republican-delayed (because the GOP are so chronically intent on wrecking the American economy and literally starving Americans to further enrich the rich) husband:

Michelle to Remain in Hawaii, Costing Taxpayers Over $100K

by Keith Koffler on December 26, 2012, 8:42 am

President Obama will return to Washington from Hawaii Thursday while First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters plan to continue their vacation, adding at least $100,000 and probably more than $200,000 to taxpayer costs for the excursion.

Instead of accompanying her husband home on Air Force One, Mrs. Obama will fly on her own Air Force jet at a later date and require security and staff to remain in place in Hawaii for the length of her stay, which reportedly could extend until January 6.

The White House does not reveal the price tag for the Obamas’ vacations. But an estimate can be made given several known and likely expenses.

Assuming Mrs. Obama uses the type of plane she has flown before to Hawaii, the Air Force C-40B Special Mission Aircraft, the cost of a flight from Honolulu to Washington would be about $63,000. If the C-40B must be flown out to Hawaii to retrieve Mrs. Obama, as would seem likely, the first lady’s travel costs could amount to about $126,000, assuming the jet is dispatched from Washington.

And the cost would be much higher still if a supply-carrying cargo jet comes home along with Michelle in addition to the cargo jet that accompanies Air Force One – particularly if that jet too must be flown out to Hawaii just for Mrs. Obama.

Once you throw in the tens of thousands of dollars that must be dished out to house, pay, and support the military and Secret Service assets enlisted to protect Mrs. Obama – as well as other support staff – the price tag for her stay is probably in excess of $200,000, and possibly much more, depending on how long she remains on vacation.

Mrs. Obama flew to Hawaii separately from the president in 2010 and 2011, in those cases leaving early with the family while he finished work with Congress and then joined them for the remainder of the vacation.

If Obama strikes an early deal on the fiscal cliff and then returns to Hawaii to finish up his vacation, the tab for taxpayers would be extraordinary. Air Force One costs about $180,000 an hour to fly, and the round trip taxpayer-funded ticket for the nine-hour flight would amount to about $3.24 million. ...

Trying to remember which past Presidential First Lady ?or mother of? it was that said of the people whose homes and lives were trashed in the Katrina disaster, to whom so little and late assistance was given, that 'they don't feel it as we would'... can't recall right now...

According to Reuters, President Obama's vacation has again been cut short - while separated from his family yet again - by the Republicans and a planned 17-day vacation (which may include 2 days consumed with travel and what-not?) has been cut to 4 days... but almost everything else seems to be 2011, sometimes reposted...,0,1993738.story

Obama to cut vacation short to deal with fiscal crisis

Mark Felsenthal Reuters

11:23 p.m. EST, December 25, 2012

HONOLULU (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is cutting short his Hawaiian holiday to leave for Washington on Wednesday to address the unfinished "fiscal cliff" negotiations with Congress, the White House said on Tuesday.

As the clock ticks toward a January 1 deadline, efforts to avert a sharp rise in taxes and deep spending cuts have stalled, worrying world financial markets. ...

... When Obama arrives back in Washington early on Thursday, the focus will shift to the U.S. Senate after Republicans in the House of Representatives failed to pass their own budget measures last week. ...

... Once clear of the Senate, the fiscal cliff legislation must also win enough bipartisan support to pass the House of Representatives, which failed last week to approve Speaker John Boehner's proposal to extend tax breaks for all Americans earning less than $1 million a year.

Conservative Republicans balked at any tax increases at all and withdrew support for the measure, which never came to a vote. Some Republican votes will be needed to pass any Senate bill. ...

... Obama and his family arrived in Hawaii early on Saturday and have devoted their time to spending the Christmas holiday together. First Lady Michelle Obama and the couple's two daughters are to remain in Hawaii, suggesting the president hopes to rejoin them if a deal is struck

Before the talks ran into trouble, Obama had originally been expected to stay in Hawaii - where he was born - until well into the first week of January.

But many observers are pessimistic that lawmakers, who have repeatedly come close to agreement only to see negotiations collapse, can wrap up a deal in the few days left before the end-of-year cut-off point.

The impact of a blown deadline would likely be first seen in financial markets, which wobbled last week after House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" tax and spending effort fell flat.

Obama had offered a deal early last week that would have let tax rates rise for those making more than $400,000 a year, a higher threshold than the $250,000 income level he originally wanted to subject to higher tax rates. However, Boehner was unimpressed with the offer and pursued his alternative instead. ...

Hope he stands his ground - freaking greedy, selfish Republican Grinches willing to destroy America for their own personal and corporate profit...

But most of the 'Christmas Vacation - Elephant House goes Animal' stuff I've found seems to have been last year's fuss recycled...

The Obama Hawaii Vacation Pricetag: Much Ado About Nothing
by Julie Driscoll
December 20, 2011

... Today’s HuffPo headline screams, “Obama Hawaii Vacation Costs Tax Payers $4 Million; A Look At The President’s Past Hawaii Vacations,” and my, the reading public is supposed to feel instant outrage at this huge waste of taxpayer money ($2.5 million more than last year) so that our President can take a (much-deserved) vacation.

But peruse the article a little further . . . yes, it could be that the trip is costing over $4 million, with Secret Service detail, advance planning, staff, the White House press corps, and all of the perks of being President of the United States (and practically the whole frigging planet). But at least part of the reason for the higher tab than last year should be borne by the goofier-than-batship House GOP’ers. Despite the fact that First Lady Michelle Obama and his two daughters landed in Hawaii last Friday, the President is forced to remain in D.C. – “for as long as it takes,” he said – until John Boehner and his happy henchmen, consisting of the teabagging House GOP’ers, approve the payroll tax cuts and extend unemployment benefits. President Obama is, you see, committed to making sure that average Americans don’t spend the holidays mired in gloom of what is to come – or not to come.

And, as a side note, all who are waiting for the President and Harry Reid to blink on this one should probably not hold their breaths.

Perhaps the critics of this vacation believe the Obamas and their daughters should fly commercial, wander off the plane in Hawaii and hail a cab to their vacation spot – and that they aren’t deserving of the exacting plans and security required when the First Family travels. What HuffPo didn’t put in neon lights in the headline is that the Obamas “have rented and paid for their own accommodations in the form of a beach front rental on Kailua,” while the First Family’s staff and White House press corps bunk at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin hotel with rates starting at $250. Sheesh, visitors to Chicago pay more than that for a room at the Holiday Inn.

So, let’s see exactly what horrifying extravagance is costing such horrific amounts . . . Oh, wait – they aren’t horrific amounts. And there’s no horrifying extravagance.

As reported by, the biggest ticket item for this vacation is the travel, pegged at $3,629,622. For Air Force One, running at about $181,757 per flight hour, to fly direct from Washington D.C. to Hawaii is about 9 hours, or $1,635,813 each way. Add to that the cost of the USAF C-17 cargo aircraft that transports the Presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment to Hawaii, another C-17 flight with the presidential helicopter, pilots and support crews for the test flights, plus the six-member crew’s per diem and hotel, and you’ve got a big chunk of the total price tag.

Detractors would no doubt prefer that the Obamas fly commercial with two stop-overs.

Although the Obamas are paying for their own rental, housing is estimated at about $151,000 to house the Secret Service, Coast Guard and Navy Seals. The cost to put up the remaining staff and press corps costs the taxpayers about $72,000.

$260,000 of the total pricetag goes to local police and the ambulance that accompanies the President 24 hours a day.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. As of August of this year, President Obama had taken 61 days of vacation, a number that paled in comparison, at the same point in their presidencies, with George W. Bush’s 180 days at his ranch, and Ronald Reagan’s 112 days at his. The Daily Kos estimated George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch trips to cost taxpayers about $226,000 a trip in flight costs alone . . . so do the math. At the very, very least, the pricetag for Bush’s vacations to Crawford cost us $17,407,544 - and that’s before factoring in the costs of security detail, press corps, staff and the like. ...

So everything regarding the estimated costs - including the Hawaii Reporter referenced by most - seems to source back to FOX News...

Anyway, went looking for the source - or at least an official source - of info on the cost.

I've cut the fuel stuff out - so many potential factors were involved, defence sites invariably stated that only very general and conditional estimates for overall use could be made, which also varied greatly with different planes, nothing specific for Air Force One that I came across.

So where is the source of this data that FOX is supplying, regarding costs?

Can anybody feeling more lively source this?

I've probably looked right at it a dozen times, if it's on the internet...

Unless this source from a ruckus last year is it? Boehner and the Congressional Republicans?

Did they start last year's Christmas vacation cost estimate fuss?

Pay Us Back: Boehner and GOP Owe Taxpayers $124 Million for Bush Vacation Travel
By: Jason EasleyApr. 26th, 2012

President George W. Bush spent over 124 million taxpayer dollars on trips to his ranch in Crawford, TX, and using John Boehner’s logic we demand that the GOP pay us back.

While trying to distract America from the fact that his own caucus passed a budget that would double the interest rate on student loans, Speaker of the House John Boehner is whipping up the faux outrage over the cost of President Obama’s travel this week. Today, Boehner said, “This week, the President traveled across the country on taxpayers’ dime, at a cost of $179,000 an hour, insisting that Congress fix a problem that we were already working on. Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House.”

Not surprisingly, John Boehner was totally silent when President George W. Bush was setting the presidential record for most vacation days. Bush was not only on vacation more than any other president. He spent more money on non-official travel than any other president in American history. As president, George W. Bush used Air Force One to fly to his ranch in Crawford, TX for vacation.

Boehner’s comments about the cost of Obama’s travel got us thinking about how much money the Republican Party owes taxpayers for George W. Bush’s non-official vacation travels. Using a method that we have cleverly coined Boehner Math, this is what we came up with.

Number of George W. Bush flights for vacation in Crawford, TX: 77

Cost of running Air Force One: $179,000/hour

Flight time one way from the White House to Crawford: 4.5 hours

Cost of one way flight: $805,500

Roundtrip cost: $1,611,000

Total cost to taxpayers of Bush’s vacation trips to the ranch: $124,047,000

Unlike President Bush who used Air Force One as personal vacation and campaign jet, President Obama’s events were held to discuss the public policy issue of the impending increase in the student loan interest rate. Bush spent over $124 million of our tax dollars flying to Crawford to clear brush, and while he was doing this Republicans like John Boehner never demanded that he pay back the cost of his travel to the taxpayers.

Boehner and the Republican Party just don’t get it. This is a non-issue, and if they really want people to look into the cost of presidential travel, they aren’t going to like the results. They are not going to be able to paint Obama as a presidential globetrotter whose largesse is coming on the taxpayer dime.

Instead of creating a distraction issue, Boehner and the Republican Party attack on President Obama has alerted the American people to the fact that they owe us a whole lot of money. And we would like to be paid.

George W. Bush and the Republican Party owe taxpayers over $124 million, so until Boehner and Bush pay us back, the Speaker needs to keep his hypocrisy infected mouth closed.

this links back to:

Speaker Boehner: White House Should Reimburse Taxpayers for Cost of Campaign Trips
Posted by Speaker Boehner Press Office
April 26, 2012
Press Release
In his weekly press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) drew a stark contrast between House Republicans’ focus on creating jobs and addressing real challenges, and President Obama’s taxpayer-funded campaign to distract attention from his failed record on jobs, energy and the economy. Following are video and text of Speaker Boehner’s remarks:


Do watch the video/read the whole thing - it'd be funny if the situation wasn't so dangerously insane.

This is from the party that refused to pass a reasonable budget, ruined America's credit rating and increased interest payments (and the debt the previous Republican Administration created by attacking other countries evidently to enrich oil and other companies they represented rather than the American people) so that they could lie about the cause (RECORD Republican Congressional obstructionism and rampant greed, and blatant representation of corporate rather than American interests) to lie to people and the corporate-owned press to try to make the President look bad (because they hindered the recovery of the country after the last Republican Bush Administration ran up the debt and ruined the economy) so that they could try to get back in to drain the country and people for their own personal profit.

What else should we expect from these self-interested, greedy, pathological liars?

Found this tip of a corporate/1% iceberg - REAL Texas-sized taxpayer waste to complain about, in this single instance:

After a bloated Super Bowl in Dallas, it's time to rein in big game

By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

... I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in Jerry World. In Jerry World, a $1.15 billion stadium looks like the Taj Mahal on the outside, but inside some of the seats violate the fire code. In Jerry World, the state of Texas spends $31 million to host the Super Bowl, even as deficits force public school cuts. In Jerry World, it can cost $900 just to park. In Jerry World, fans pay hundreds of dollars to stand outside the stadium. ...

... Everything you need to know about the future of the NFL could be seen in the gloriously decadent stadium that hosted this Super Bowl. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out, "Quite frankly, that's our stage." It was the cleanest, safest, nicest stadium anyone has ever visited. It was also the most extravagant and economically stratified. It cost double what Jerry Jones said it would, and taxpayers financed about a quarter of it, yet its innermost marble interiors are totally inaccessible to the average fan.

A tipping point was reached with this Super Bowl, for me. It was the screwed-over anger of those 1,250 people without seats that did it. Those travel-weary, cash-whipped fans paid small fortunes to go to the game, only to discover their stubs were no good, because fire marshals declared some sections unsafe. All of a sudden the whole thing seemed offensive. It was just too much.

For absurdity, how about those four Navy F-18s flying over the stadium - with its retractable roof closed? Everybody inside could only see the planes on the stadium's video screens. It was strictly a two-second beauty shot. Know what it cost taxpayers? I'll tell you: $450,000. (The Navy justifies the expense by saying it's good for recruiting.)

It's not clear what the pain threshold of the average NFL fan is: Thirty-two owners digging relentlessly in our pockets haven't found the bottom yet. But the NFL would be advised to recognize that it's getting close. Those folks who found themselves without seats? Many were among the league's most loyal paying customers, season ticket holders. Yet they were treated like afterthoughts, awarded half-built, jerry-rigged seats, folding chairs on auxiliary platforms. Which begs the question of what the "NFL fan experience" really means anymore. A day later the league did its best to make it up to them with offers of tickets to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis and Goodell called it "obviously a failure on our part."

This Super Bowl was the future, and it set some lousy precedents. Every owner in the league wants a stadium like this one, and they will be pitching - maybe even extorting - their communities to help them build one. They want ever-larger luxury suites and bigger restaurants, and giant scoreboards and TVs, so they can replicate this Super Bowl, and sell standing room space in plazas and blocked views of a big screen for $200.

"Of the 100,000 and change tickets they sold, how many of those people actually had seats, and how many could actually see the field?" asks Neil deMause, a stadium-financing watchdog who co-authored the book, "Field of Schemes." He adds: "That's revolutionary if you can sell tickets to not actually watch the game. That's a whole new ballgame. So obviously everybody is saying, 'Hey, we want to get one of those.' "

It's the shiny new toy in the league. New stadiums are such a priority for owners that it's a critical piece of the labor negotiations taking place with the players' union. A major reason owners resent the 60 percent cut of revenue that goes to players is because it's not easy to finance stadium projects. They want a restructured agreement so "we can make the kinds of investments that grow this game," Goodell says, bemoaning the fact that no new construction has started since 2006.

But how much growth does the league need? It already generates an estimated $8 billion, and owners get the first $1 billion off the top. If you really love the NFL - and I do - you have to wonder if the billionizing of the league is really good for it. The average cost of attending a game for a family of four is $412.64. At Cowboys Stadium, it's a staggering $758.58. That's what the league calls growth. ...

... But in the end, this Super Bowl taught me a lesson: Luxury can actually be debasing. The last great building binge in the NFL was from 1995 through 2003, when 21 stadiums were built or refurbished in order to create more luxury boxes, at cost of $6.4 billion. Know how much of that the public paid for? $4.4 billion. Why are we giving 32 rich guys that kind of money, just to prey on us at the box office and concessions? The Dallas deal should be the last of its kind.

When an owner grows tired of a facility and leaves, guess who picks up the tab? New Jersey still owes $110 million on the old Meadowlands home of the New York Giants and Jets, and when both teams moved to their new $1.6 billion, privately financed stadium, they got a huge tax break. According to the Wall Street Journal under their old agreement they paid $20 million a year in tax revenues; now they will pay only about $6 million a year. Know what New Jersey's deficit is? I'll tell you: $36 billion. ...

So how many non-multi million/billionaires in Republican States would actually vote for the party willing to sacrifice them and their country for corporate profit if blatant lying carried by corporate-owned media was not involved - and how would voting go if voter suppression and electoral cheating were not factors?

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:22 pm
Very True David. You cannot currently send a star to David because you have done so within the last week.
Thanks Dianna and Dorothy for digging up the facts for providing appropriate context for factual analyses of costs of Presidential vacation travel. You cannot currently send a star to Dorothy because you have done so within the last week.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:31 pm
You are welcome Lois--I've read that he's used our input, etc. as part of his conversations with Boehner. You cannot currently send a star to Lois because you have done so within the last week.

Heidi Aubrey (16)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 9:09 pm
Drive the entire country over a cliff to save the 1 percent a tax increase. Amazing.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 9:15 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Heidi because you have done so within the last week.

irene davis (74)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 11:42 pm

JL A (281)
Thursday December 27, 2012, 9:01 pm
You're welcome Rene.
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