U.S. Government & governance January 2023-

Written by  //  January 26, 2023  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

The culture of government secrecy is out of control
By Fareed Zakaria
(WaPo) What should we think of the fact that Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and now Mike Pence have all turned out to have classified material sitting in their houses? Before I answer that question, let me tell you a few facts. One 2004 essay put the number of classified pages in existence at about 7.5 billion. In 2012, records were classified at a rate of 3 per second, making for an estimated 95 million classifications that year alone. Today, no one knows how frequently information is classified. And as of 2019, more than 4 million people were eligible to access classified information, about one-third for top secret records, the highest general designation.
The real scandal is that the U.S. government has a totally out-of-control system of secrets that represents a real danger to the quality of democratic government. …  Given how crazy the classification system is, the wonder is that we don’t find more top secret documents littered throughout the houses of government officials.
… Democratic governments demand transparency. Accountability and control are impossible when citizens know so little about what the government is doing — and when it has the power to block access to any of that information.
This problem has become much, much worse in the digital era. Timothy Naftali, a New York University scholar and former director of the Nixon Library, told me, “We now have a tsunami of classified documents — tens of thousands of emails, PowerPoints, all kinds of stuff — all stored somewhere in the cloud, but we still have a tiny staff of people at the National Archives for the declassification process.”

21 January
Why we have a debt ceiling, and why this trip to the brink may be different
The debt limit is back. And this particular round of wrestling over the issue could carry the ugliest economic consequences yet.

The Big Picture: Debt limit fight looms
(NPR) House Republicans – led by new Speaker Kevin McCarthy – are vowing to fight for spending cuts at all turns in exchange for their support for lifting the debt ceiling. While the Treasury Department is now using “extraordinary measures” to cover its obligations, Congress will have to vote to raise it by early summer or risk an unprecedented debt default that could trigger negative economic consequences worldwide.
Like past presidents, Joe Biden maintains that he will not negotiate over the debt limit. Democrats think Republicans are backing themselves into an untenable political position that flirts with default in order to fight for spending cuts that cannot pass a Democratic Senate or be signed by President Biden.
Democrats are not the only obstacle facing McCarthy. Across the Capitol, Senate Republicans’ support for this spending cut push has been lukewarm. “I think that important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt. It never has, and it never will,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Kentucky last week.
McConnell was a chief negotiator around 2011 and 2013 debt limit standoffs and has competing political interests from McCarthy. Senate Republicans are poised to have a competitive 2024 election cycle with a good chance to win Democratic-held seats and the Senate majority — if they don’t mess it up. Risking a debt default and demanding deep slashes in domestic programs while also flirting with overhauling entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are ways they could, in fact, mess it up. Before McCarthy can try to get Biden to the negotiating table, he might first need to get on the same page as McConnell.
Here’s why a high-stakes debt ceiling fight looms on Capitol Hill

America Hit Its Debt Limit, Raising Economic Fears
The Treasury Department said it would begin a series of accounting moves to keep the United States from breaching its borrowing cap.
(NYT) The milestone of reaching the $31.4 trillion debt cap is a product of decades of tax cuts and increased government spending by both Republicans and Democrats. But at a moment of heightened partisanship and divided government, it is also a warning of the entrenched battles that are set to dominate Washington, and that could end in economic shock.

Heather Cox Richardson: January 18, 2023
One of the promises House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to the extremist members of the Republican conference to win his position was that he would let them bring the so-called Fair Tax Act to the House floor for a vote. On January 8, Representative Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) introduced the measure into Congress.
The measure repeals all existing income taxes, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes, replacing them with a flat national sales tax of 30% on all purchased goods, rents, and services (which its advocates nonsensically call a 23% tax because, as Bloomberg opinion writer Matthew Yglesias explains their thinking: “if something sells for $100 plus $30 in tax, then it’s a 23% tax—because $30 is 23% of $130”). The measure abolishes the Internal Revenue Service, leaving it up to the states to administer the tax.
The bill says the measure will “promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity.” But a 30% sales tax on everything doesn’t seem to do much for fairness or economic opportunity for all, since it would, of course, hit Americans with less money to spend far harder than it would Americans with more money to spend. And the end of income, gift, and estate taxes would be a windfall for the wealthy.
Such a bill is not going to pass this Congress, and if it did, President Biden would not sign it. Two days after Carter introduced the measure, Biden said to the press: “National sales tax, that’s a great idea. It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas, while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.” He promised he would never agree to any such legislation.

Heather Cox Richardson: January 17, 2023
Today the bill for the elevation of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to House speaker began to come due. McCarthy promised the far-right members of his conference committee seats and far more power in Congress to persuade them to vote for him.
Now they are collecting.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar get committee assignments after Democrats kicked them off
While holding the majority in 2021, House Democrats removed Greene and Gosar from their assigned committees because of controversial posts they made on social media.
(NBC) The GOP Steering Committee, which doles out committee gavels and seats, voted to give Greene and Gosar spots on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, which plans to launch numerous investigations into President Joe Biden and his administration.
Gosar also secured an assignment on the Natural Resources Committee. Democrats had booted him off both panels in the last Congress.
Greene also won a seat on the Homeland Security Committee, which Republicans will use to focus on border security and to investigate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Last week, a House Republican from Texas filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas.

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