What is this Country about Anymore?

Meet Mark. He's a 58 year old, college-educated veteran who lives in Oregon. He was laid off last September and has been unable to find work since. Mark's state unemployment benefits ran out in May. Since funding for the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was cut last December, Mark and more than three million other Americans, including nearly 300,000 veterans, have been denied access to a second six months of support — a vital financial lifeline in this tough economy. Mark is way behind in his rent, is selling everything of value he owns, and fears he will be homeless soon.

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The Veterans Affairs Scandal and Plans for Downsizing the Social Security Administration

The media have been rightly focusing their attention on the long waiting lists for veterans seeking medical care, and even worse, the Department of Veteran's Affairs cover-up. Unlike President Obama's birth certificate and the attack on the consulate at Benghazi, delaying or denying care to veterans is really a scandal.

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Information for Economic Opportunity: Ensuring Equal Pay through Transparency

Today is Equal Pay Day, the date representing how far into the new year the average woman would have to work in order to earn the same as the average man did in the previous year. In recognition, President Obama took executive actions and the Senate began work on a bill, all aimed at closing the pay gap and ensuring women earn equal pay for equal work. Each of these efforts is based on the same premise: that better access to information can expand economic opportunity.

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Long Overdue: Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contractor Employees

In advance of his State of the Union speech tonight, the White House announced President Barack Obama will sign an executive order – which does not require congressional approval – to raise the wage floor to $10.10 for the lowest paid workers at companies that work on new federal government contracts.

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Buffett is Right, the Rich Should Pay More in Taxes

We're coming for your loot, Scrooge.

Warren Buffett's op-ed last week calling on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy has struck a nerve with conservatives, stirring charges of class warfare and zingers about how the billionaire investor should write a check to help Uncle Sam. Exemplifying the right's opprobrium, the reactionary Tax Foundation has been lambasting Buffett in a series of recent posts and has actually gone so far as to call on low- and middle-income Americans to pay more before the rich do.

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The Threat to Our Democracy from the Debt Ceiling Deal

The U.S. Capitol

Bob Greenstein, president of the well-respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), lays out the broader consequence of the self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis and, in short, it's a "terrifying" new framework of federal budget politics that enshrines minority rule and threatens to "undermine democracy."

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Experts Foresee Disturbing Trend out of Recent Census Data

Brookings Institution

With yesterday's release of the Census Bureau's report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for Americans in 2008, most economists and analysts agree that while the numbers are bad, next year's numbers will be worse and that trend could continue for a number of years.

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A Letter to Congress: PAYGO Legislation an Encouraging Start

This afternoon, OMB Watch submitted a letter to all members of the House of Representatives, encouraging them to support the "Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2009" ("PAYGO").  Introduced by House Majority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the bill is a crucial first step towards returning to a culture of responsible spending. 

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CTJ and RRAN Call for Funding Health Care through Responsible Tax Reform

Citizens for Tax Justice

This morning, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), in conjunction with Rebuild & Renew America Now (RRAN), a tax policy group, released a report outlining two tax reform proposals devised to help pay for the much anticipated overhaul of the U.S. health care system by Congress. The proposals, designed to place the least amount of tax burden on low and middle-income families, call for an expansion of the Medicare tax and a limitation on itemized deductions. According to CTJ, the two tax reforms could yield as much as $60.5 billion in the first year and $760 billion over the course of a decade. The report breaks down how the tax reforms would affect citizens of different income levels on a state-by-state basis. In addition to the report, Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, which is part of RRAN, published an opinion piece on Huffington Post arguing for responsible revenues to pay for health care reform.

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Senate (sort of) Passes Estate Tax Cut

Well, the U.S. Senate is a mysterious thing. The Lincoln/Kyl estate tax amendment to reward the children of multi-millionaires passed last night - 51 - 48. But there's a caveat. The Senate also passed an amendment from Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) that prohibits any estate tax cuts called for in the Lincoln/Kyl amendment unless an equally large tax cut is passed for Americans making under $100,000 per year. That amendment also passed 56 - 43. Even Lincoln voted for Durbin's amendment (I guess she just really likes tax cuts?). I think on a procedural level this amendment does help a bit. While the Durbin amendment doesn't negate the Lincoln/Kyl amendment, it does make it a bit harder to develop legislation that would actually enact a change in the estate tax that is called for under the Lincoln/Kyl amendment.

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