Here and Now

What’s Next for North Korea, Economist Says Higher Taxes Will Create Jobs, Comments on the End of the Iraq War: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: North Koreans are mourning the death of Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack this weekend. The late Kim’s son, Kim Jong Un, is the heir apparent and experts say this transition period will be a challenge for the young man, who has had little time to develop a power base and inherits control of a country that is poorer than the one his father inherited in 1994. Barbara Demick is the Beijing Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times; she is author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. In the book, she tells the stories of several refugees from North Korea and the lives they left behind. We’ll hear from her this hour on what might be next for North Korean leadership.

1:12pm: Congress is deadlocked today with another bitter debate over tax cuts and government spending. And economist Jeffrey Sachs says his profession is partly to blame. Economics, he says, has been wrong on taxes and government for the last 30 years. Sachs says America’s economic problems cannot be solved by tinkering with monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. He says it will take significantly higher taxes and a more active government to restore America’s economy and culture. He joins us to explain.

1:40pm: As part of our series of conversations about the end of the war in Iraq, we hear from an Army veteran, a longtime critic of the Iraq War, whose son was killed in it. Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He’ll join us to talk about his recent op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he writes: “The beliefs to which the end of the Cold War gave rise—liberal democracy triumphant, globalization as the next big thing and American dominion affirmed by a new way of war—have all come to rest in that unmarked grave reserved for failed ideas. Those who promoted and persisted in the Iraq war wielded the shovel that helped dig the hole. This defines their legacy.”


Chandler Blames Federal Deficit on Bush-Era Tax Cuts

by Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

Congressman Ben Chandler says one of the main causes of today’s historic trillion dollar federal budget deficit is the tax cuts that were approved during the Bush Administration. The Versailles Democrat made the comment during an interview on KET’s One to One program.

Chandler says tax policy under President Clinton produced a budget surplus but the lower rates championed by President Bush mostly benefited the rich.

“These were the largest tax cuts that we’ve had, maybe ever, but certainly in a very long time,” he said. “And they are a tremendous cause of the deficits that we’re looking at right now. And most of those tax cuts went to the very wealthiest people in this country.”

Chandler says wealthy people today have more money as a percentage of the economy than they’ve ever had in the history of the U.S.

“It’s kept us from having the ability to properly fund things like Medicare and Social Security,” he said. “So now people want to come along and say, ‘surprisingly, we don’t have the money to fund Medicare and Social Security.’ Well, of course we don’t. We’ve given all these big tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country.

Chandler says he doesn’t like to hear programs like Social Security and Medicare referred to as “entitlements”. He says most recipients paid into those programs all their lives and earned the benefits.

Republicans argue that raising taxes on the wealthy will discourage investment in new economic development projects.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Millionaires Group Wants Higher Taxes

A group of wealthy Americans  are marking the ten-year anniversary of the tax cuts signed into law by former President George W. Bush by calling for an end to the reductions for people making over $1 million.

The group Patriotic Millionaires sent a video message to members of Congress Tuesday asking lawmakers to raise their taxes in order to help reduce the deficit. But Republican leaders have said any discussion about tax increases are a non-starter and Democratic support for the break has been solid.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Despite the group’s efforts, the Bush-era tax cuts don’t show signs of going away anytime soon. Even President Barack Obama and the majority of Democratic lawmakers have supported maintaining them for middle-class people, defined as couples making less than $250,000. That’s the bulk of the budgetary cost.

Republicans last year forced a two-year extension of the tax cuts, including the breaks for higher earners, despite objections from the millionaires group. GOP lawmakers appear determined to avoid tax increases now as part of a deficit-reduction package under negotiation between the two parties.

University of Indiana Southeast economist Eric Schansberg says tightening the tax code might be a better option to reduce the debt without slowing economic recovery.

Local News Politics

In Wide-Ranging Speech, Biden Discusses Egypt, Bipartisanship, War

Vice President Joe Biden says it’s time for a smooth transition to Democracy in Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned shortly before Biden took the stage at the University of Louisville McConnell Center. The Vice President began his remarks with a comment on the situation.

“This is a pivotal moment in history, it’s a pivotal moment in not only Mid East history, but in history I would argue. We have said from the beginning as an administration that this unrest, that the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people,” he says.

Biden says any violence against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and the rights of the Egyptian people must be respected.

In the rest of his speech, Biden discussed everything from education and the economy to innovation and infrastructure.

Referring to Iraq and Afghanistan, Biden said the Obama administration will begin withdrawing forces in Afghanistan in July and 50 thousand troops will be coming home from Iraq by the end of the year.

Biden was accompanied by the center’s namesake, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The Vice President said despite frequent disagreements, he and McConnell have been able to reach some common ground.

“We also share the conviction that we can sustain our position in the world and we can and must strengthen it. We share the conviction that America’s best days are ahead,” he said.

Biden cited the recent tax cut compromise as an example of his bipartisan work.

For video of the speech visit the McConnell Center website.

Local News Politics

Yarmuth Does Not Support Tax Cut Compromise

The recent compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts between the President and congressional Republicans has not received a warm welcome from many Capitol Hill lawmakers, and Third District Congressman John Yarmuth is among them.

Yarmuth, a Democrat, says he will not support the compromise, which, among other things, calls for a two-year extension of the tax cuts in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. Yarmuth does not support extending the tax cuts for the highest-earning Americans. He says he doesn’t think there is enough support from either party in the House to pass the compromise. And it may not fare any better once the Republican majority is sworn in next year, either.

“A lot of the new Republicans are going to be hard pressed to vote for something that adds almost a trillion dollars to the debt in the next two years,” he says. “But we’re going to have to deal with it in the next couple weeks.”

The tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Yarmuth says the cuts for the wealthiest Americans are too expensive, and he is disappointed with the President and other Democrats for not being more firm with Republicans on the issue.

“It would’ve been good to try and put some pressure on them,” he says. “No pressure was put on them and that’s why it seems like a very, very high price for no benefit for the vast majority of Americans to get this kind of compromise done.”

Yarmuth says any changes to the deal will likely be made in the Senate.