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.
The battle over how to avoid the looming cuts and tax increases known as the fiscal cliff is a frustrating one for the Tea Party. The movement is still a force within the GOP, even as its popularity has fallen over the past two years.
But in the current debate, there have been no big rallies in Washington, and Tea Party members in Congress seem resigned to the fact that any eventual deal will be one they won't like — and one they'll have little influence over.
Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 4:47 pm
The White House is warning African-Americans and Hispanics that they face disproportionate harm from tax hikes, spending cuts and an end to extended unemployment benefits if a deal isn't struck to avoid the fiscal cliff.
At a closed White House meeting Thursday, the administration briefed more than 100 black leaders on potential stakes for their communities, some of which still are experiencing the worst effects of the recession.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., speaks to the media after a Republican caucus luncheon last year. He's joined by (from left): Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 6:51 am
When Thursday dawned in Washington, some things seemed certain: The fiscal cliff fight would continue; the National Christmas Tree would be aglow by evening, and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina would continue to be the Senate's most important Tea Party voice.
So much for Washington certainties.
With his surprise announcement that he was exiting the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation think tank, a job that paid his predecessor $1 million annually, DeMint brought to an end his role as the Tea Party's godfather in the Senate.
Senator Jim DeMint on Thursday announced that he will not return to the new Congress, and instead will resign early next month. DeMint will instead lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
White House spokesman Jay Carney briefs reporters Thursday at the White House. "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period," he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney put an end to intense speculation Thursday about whether President Obama would do an end run around Congress with one simple line: "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period."
Some Democrats had been urging Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit — a bold move that would take away Republican leverage in the ongoing negotiations over taxes and spending.
House Republicans and the White House are at a stalemate over how best to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. As the deficit deadline approaches, the priority for Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), is to protect the middle class.
President Obama is lobbying the CEOs of the nation's largest companies to support him as he tries to reach a budget deal with Republican lawmakers. The president met Wednesday with members of the Business Roundtable. The group urges the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthy.
The president and House Republicans continued to snipe at each other Wednesday over the impending set of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. They traded accusations and blame during another day with plenty of talk, but — until late in the day, at least — no negotiations.
Tax increases are only a part of what lies ahead if Congress can't come to an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff by the new year. Massive spending cuts will also kick in — and those cuts will be felt throughout the economy.
The current stalemate got under way two years ago when Congress, locked in a bitter partisan battle over whether to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, passed what was known as the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Billions in damages and not enough in the bank account — that's where federal officials find themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The White House says it will send an emergency funding request to Capitol Hill this week — expected to be $50 billion to $60 billion. Top administrators told Congress on Wednesday that they want at least some of that money to go toward preventing the kind of devastation caused by Sandy and other recent storms.
In just over a month, President Obama will be sworn in for his second term. Audie Cornish takes a moment to look back at what his presidency has meant for African-Americans. We hear from a comedian, David Alan Grier; from a lawmaker, Emanuel Cleaver, who is outgoing chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; and from three seniors at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C.