A right-to-work protester walks past Michigan state police at the capitol in Lansing on Tuesday. The Michigan Legislature is expected to pass legislation Tuesday that would bar contracts requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
Credit Carlos Osorio / AP
Thousands rally at the state capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation.
Michigan's Legislature is expected to pass legislation Tuesday that would bar contracts requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The proposed right-to-work law has infuriated union leaders in a state considered the heart of the union movement.
Republican leaders pushing the bill closely watched the fights over labor rights going on across the Midwest, but it wasn't Ohio or Wisconsin that prompted them into action. Many leaders in the public and private sector looked to their neighbor to the immediate south.
Let's take that idea of playing out a little further now. The budget standoff has been described in all sorts of dramatic terms. So we decided to look into what the great works of the stage can tell us about this debate over tax hikes and spending cuts, and how it will play out. Think of it as "The Fiscal Cliff for English Majors."
NPR White House correspondent - and English major - Ari Shapiro has this take.
President Obama and House speaker John Boehner have been holding private conversations about how to avoid the fiscal cliff, but still no deal. That has many in Washington talking about how it wasn't always so difficult to get things done. For some insight, we called John Danforth. He's a former Republican senator from Missouri and spent decades forging deals across the aisle, including the 1986 tax reform law under President Reagan. As he sees it, lawmakers aren't approaching the current problem from the right angle.
Lines of communication remain open in an effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff," according to the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.
If no deal is reached between now and the end of the year, would the consequences be that drastic?
To answer that question, let's imagine it's January and the nation has gone off the "fiscal cliff." You don't really feel any different and things don't look different, either. That's because, according to former congressional budget staffer Stan Collender, the cliff isn't really a cliff.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama got out of Washington today. He visited a car plant this afternoon in Detroit. The president was there, in part, to talk jobs and to herald some good news for manufacturing in Michigan. But looming over today's visit, and over much of what Mr. Obama does these days, are the budget negotiations back in Washington.
After the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinian Authority to an observer state the week before last, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with an expansion of housing plans on the West Bank, near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The U.S. called that counterproductive. And it came after Washington had backed Israel in the U.N., helped Egypt mediate a cease-fire in Gaza and funded production of Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.
And if past negotiations are any indication, that silence could mean the talks are going well. We're joined now by NPR's congressional reporter Tamara Keith, who has been following developments on the Hill and beyond. And as Ari just said, neither side is talking about the details, but Tamara, what are they saying?
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we will hear from one of Africa's most prominent economists, who says that critics who think the developing nations are unreformable are wrong, and she offers lessons from her experience in Nigeria. That conversation is coming up later in the program.
But first, we turn to Ghana, also in West Africa. Elections there were held on Friday, and in a tight race, incumbent President John Dramani Mahama just won a new term with just over 50 percent of the vote.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we'll hear about elections in Ghana. We'll talk about whether the election of President John Dramani Mahama to a new term confirms the country's reputation for leadership in democratic processes, or perhaps undermines it. That's later.
President Obama in the Oval Office, where there may be some more late night bargaining sessions before a deal is reached to keep the federal government from going over the "fiscal cliff." (December 2009 file photo.)
Details are starting to come out about President Obama's second inauguration next month. The co-chairmen include some leaders of the Democratic Party and the business world as well as actress Eva Longoria. A record crowd came to the nation's capital in 2009 to witness the country's first black president take the oath of office, but this event is expected to be less flashy.
Originally published on Sun December 9, 2012 5:09 pm
Hundreds of people gathered in September at Baltimore's harbor as the wind gusted off the water's edge. Nearly 50 of them were about to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. Some were young, some old. There were uniformed members of the U.S. military, parents and children. There were immigrants from El Salvador, China, Honduras and countries in between. They raised their right hands, recited the naturalization oath to the United States, and were declared fully American.
Sen. Kent Conrad has chaired the Senate Budget Committee since 2006. The Democratic senator from North Dakota is retiring in January 2013, but before leaving the Senate, he is a key player in the negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff." Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks with Sen. Conrad about the challenges to achieving a budget compromise.
It's widely known as the fiscal cliff, but some prominent Republicans have been calling it a "debt crisis." Economists agree such a crisis may be coming, but it's not here yet. Demographic changes are forcing a reckoning of how to pay for what people want from their government.
Originally published on Sun December 9, 2012 12:53 pm
The expiration of Bush-era tax cuts. A patch to the alternative minimum tax. An increase in capital gains taxes.
As the "fiscal cliff" approaches, all of these are possible, but none certain. That uncertainty solicits many questions from anxious taxpayers. But, for accountants and financial planners, there are a few definitive answers.
Financial professionals who spoke with NPR say they are not strangers to uncertainty. When the Bush tax cuts were up for expiration two years ago, for instance, the feeling was similar.
President Obama walks with his daughters Sasha, foreground, and Malia as they leave St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, on Oct. 28. An analysis of exit polls shows that those who claim no specific religious affiliation were a key Obama voting bloc in the presidential race.
With all the attention on tax rates and spending cuts, three big issues are getting little attention in fiscal cliff talks. NPR's Tamara Keith explains how expiring provisions on the payroll tax cut, the alternative minimum tax and unemployment benefits could have major effects on the economy.
Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 10:42 am
Not long ago, it seemed to many observers that the House of Representatives was a case of the tail wagging the dog, with Speaker John Boehner unable to keep in line many of his fellow Republicans, especially freshmen who came to Congress riding the 2010 Tea Party wave.
Now, however, the big dog seems back in control.
Some of the signs are subtle, some not. But as he faces off with President Obama during fiscal cliff negotiations, Boehner enjoys a stronger position with House Republicans than he had during earlier showdowns with the White House.
A nearly complete picture is emerging of the money chase that shaped the presidential election. President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney each raised more than a billion dollars, according to new reports filed at the Federal Election Commission. But in the new era of unregulated outside groups and seemingly endless TV ads, that was only the beginning, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.
After African-American and Latino voters turned out in record numbers to reelect President Obama, leaders for both groups are turning up the pressure on him to return the favor.
They say that minorities, who put aside their disappointments with Obama's first term to support him again, now expect the president to spend his political capital on policies that will help their communities begin to recover from the recession. In the post-election euphoria, some leaders claim, certain voters are saying, "It's our turn."
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 12:42 pm
As the White House and Congress continue to wrangle over a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" and its billions in automatic spending cuts and tax increases, we wanted to take a look at who is spending big to influence the debate behind the scenes.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later in the program we'll crack open the mail bag to hear what you have to say about stories we covered this week. That's Backtalk and it's coming up. But first, we want to talk about the latest unemployment numbers which are now out. The Department of Labor says that unemployment is down to its lowest level since December 2008.
Judy Smith, of Dalton, Ga., looks over paperwork as she files for unemployment benefits in August after being laid off from a catering job. More than 2 million people who get extended benefits may lose them if Congress doesn't act soon.
Credit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The total number of weeks of benefits available in any particular state depends on the unemployment rate and unemployment insurance laws in the state where the person worked. This map shows the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available in each state.
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 11:49 am
The Labor Department's glad tidings Friday about the uptick in job creation last month might morph into bad news next month for many of the long-term unemployed.
That's because the boost in November hiring, with employers adding 146,000 jobs, might make it more difficult for Democrats to argue in favor of having Congress renew the extension of benefits for people out of work more than six months.
If President Obama and Congress fail to reach a deal on tax and spending changes, the nation would feel a lot of fiscal pain. But it also may benefit from the long-term fiscal restraint that would come from keeping tax hikes and spending cuts in place.
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 10:11 am
It wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to the country.
If President Obama and Congress can't come to agreement on new tax and spending policies by the end of year, the U.S. could slip into recession, defense and domestic programs will see damaging cuts, and the American people may become convinced that Washington can't govern the nation.
On the other hand, the lack of a deal would do a lot to help erase the federal deficit.