The Note: Of Politics And Posturing

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

Mark your calendars: Today — September 19, 2011 — is the day campaign 2012 officially began.

President Obama is unveiling a plan today to reduce the deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next decade, including $1.5 trillion in new taxes and means-testing Medicare for wealthy recipients, senior administration officials tell ABC’s Jake Tapper and Ann Compton.

Among the news taxes the president is proposing is the so-called Buffet Rule. Named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, it stipulates that Americans earning more $1 million a year pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle-class families.

“The president’s purpose in laying out this detailed plan is to avoid the criticisms that have dogged him throughout this year for not putting out a more assertive deficit reduction plan,” Tapper reports. “A senior administration official described the president’s proposal as having ‘very tough policies in it, and we know that that’s going to be something that our friends and our opponents alike are going to notice.’”

And notice they have.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that the Buffet Rule, in particular, amounted to “class warfare.”

“It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy,” Ryan said. “Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”

Nevertheless, the president is digging in his heels, taunting Republicans with a promise to “veto any bill that takes one dime from the Medicare benefits seniors rely on without asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” a senior administration official told Tapper.

President Obama will announce the proposals for the congressional super-committee during a White House Rose Garden speech at 10:30 a.m.

BOTTOM LINE: The president decided that he’d rather have the fight than another frustrating attempt at finding a “grand bargain.”

Even so, voters aren’t interested in posturing. They are interested in results. So, while Obama may win the battle on some individual issues (most Americans are O.K. with seeing wealthy people pay taxes), if he can’t get a jobs bill passed by Congress, he can’t win the war.

THE PRESIDENT’S PLAN. ABC’s Ann Compton has more details about President Obama’s deficit reduction plan. Savings will come from:

–$1.2 trillion in discretionary cuts that were already enacted in the Budget Control Act passed by Congress

–$580 billion in cuts and reforms across all mandatory programs

–$1.1 trillion in savings from troop draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan

–$1.5 in tax reform — $800 billion from allowing the top rate Bush tax cuts to expire

–$700 billion in closing loopholes and limiting deductions many of which he has discussed publicly before

–$430 billion would be additional interest savings

REALITY CHECK. ABC’s Jake Tapper notes that the White House is trying to pad the proposal’s total deficit reduction figure by including savings from winding down the costs of the wars and $1 trillion in deficit reduction already agreed to from the debt ceiling deal. The Obama administration is claiming “more than $4 trillion,” but the number for new deficit reduction the president is proposing is actually “more than $2 trillion.”

@ JohnJHarwood : my NYT column on economic shift behind Obama’s tax plans: a generation of income redistribution toward the affluent.


WHITE HOUSE WATCH: ABC’s Mary Bruce reports that later today the President and First Lady will travel to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama will meet with world leaders over the next two days and deliver his address to the General Assembly on Wednesday. This evening, the President will attend a DNC fundraiser at a private residence in New York City.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” As the United Nations General Assembly opens this week, ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter speak to Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, Chief Representative of the General Delegation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Also on the program, Aaron David Miller, former President Bill Clinton’s Mideast peace negotiator. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


“THIS WEEK” REPLAY: BILL CLINTON. On the eve of the annual meeting of his Clinton Global Initiative,  Former President Bill Clinton  says that partisanship in Washington is hampering any ability to reach economic solutions for the country. “We live in a time where there’s this huge disconnect between the way the political system works and the way the economic system works,” President Clinton told “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour. “If you want to put people to work, we’ve got to focus on what works, and what works is not all this back and forth fighting in Washington.” “Conflict has proved to be remarkably good politics,” Clinton added. “It’s very hard for the people in Washington, who got there based on pure conflict, pure attack, pure ideology, to take it seriously when their same constituents are saying please do something positive. That’s not how they got elected.”




RICK PERRY: NOT WORRIED ‘ABOUT THIS BARRAGE.’ Rick Perry’s message: Bring it on. The blunt, brash governor with a Texas drawl says he’s not worried about the flood of scrutiny that has greeted his emergence as an instant front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination,” reports USA Today’s Susan Page. “News organizations and political opponents are mining his decade-long gubernatorial record in Austin, investigating everything from cozy ties with business interests — supporters have been the recipients of aid and appointments — to his stances on immigration and Social Security. ‘I’ve taken the heat before, and I’m not particularly worried about this barrage,’ Perry said in an interview with USA TODAY during a day of campaigning to friendly audiences in Iowa, where he hopes a victory in the opening caucuses next year will help catapult him to the nomination. … He’s not worried, he said, because only one issue really matters to Americans in this election. It’s the one he plans to ride first against his Republican rivals and then against President Obama. Jobs. ‘I’ll be asked about a hundred different issues a thousand different ways,’ he said in the interview Friday, one of only a few he has done since announcing his candidacy last month. ‘But it is about who has the record, who has the vision to get Americans working again.’ That’s what ‘Republicans, independents and even I think a number of Democrats … are looking for.’”

THE BOY FROM PAINT CREEK. The New York Times’ Deborah Sontag reports from Perry’s hometown of Paint Creek, Texas: In the early 1960s, at a tiny, rural school here in the rugged plains of West Texas, little Ricky Perry waged his first campaign. Seeking the office of Halloween King, he stocked up on penny candy at Ma’s convenience store and then doled it out to classmates. ‘It was Rick’s first victory, and he won it with payola,’ Wallar Overton, his old scoutmaster’s son, said with a chuckle. Fifty years later, as Mr. Perry, 61 and a three-term Republican governor of Texas, embarks on a run for president, the tight-knit and traditionally Democratic community that first crowned him king no longer wholeheartedly embraces him even as Paint Creek anchors his origin story.”

THE BOOK THAT SHOOK WASHINGTON. For a White House seeking to regain footing on the economy, this book hurts,” notes ABC’s Rick Klein. “Journalist Ron Suskind, granted extraordinary access to President Obama and his inner circle, has delivered a vicious take on the Obama White House’s economic team in the new book ‘Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.’ Suskind depicts rivalries that led to dysfunction and even insubordination in the young months of a new presidency. At the middle of all of it, by Suskind’s account, was a president whose top aides were feuding and bitter as they sought to cope with the worst financial crisis in generations. ‘We’re home alone,’ Larry Summers, who was director of the White House National Economic Council until last year, is quoted as griping to a colleague, Peter Orszag. ‘There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.’ The White House is fiercely disputing the accounts of the Suskind book, calling it a combination of half-truths and old news, dramatized for effect. Several of those quoted in the book are already claiming they were misquoted, or had their words taken out of context by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. … The next few days will be critical for perceptions around the book. Which damaging quotes were on taped conversations with Suskind, and which were based on recollections that came months later — and from aides with complicated motivations — will in part dictate the success of White House efforts to squelch the book’s impact.”

CLASH OVER PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION PLAN. Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania could drastically alter the political map ahead of next year’s presidential election, awarding their electoral votes by congressional district instead of as a state,” ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports. “The legislation proposed by state Senate leader Dominic Pileggi is supported by Republican governor Tom Corbett and would be more likely to hurt President Obama’s chances of reelection than a Republican candidate’s. But it is angering politicians on both sides of the aisle in Pennsylvania and nationally. The state is always a battleground, despite the fact that a Republican hasn’t won the presidential election there since 1988. The proposal would switch the awarding of electoral votes from the current winner-takes-all system to a system that would award the Electoral College votes to the winner of each congressional district. The only other states that have this process are Maine and Nebraska, but with Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, this could have a significant impact on the 2012 election. State Sen. Daylin Leach is leading the charge from the state Democratic side to kill the legislation. He calls the legislation an ‘obscene partisan power grab.’ … Leach told ABC News: “Suddenly, we have a different type of Republican in office now willing to essentially and in my view desecrate that history and make Pennsylvania an irrelevant state in the presidential election, which would cost us money, cost us prestige, and cost us influence with one purpose: to rig the election so their guy wins.” Leach accused Corbett and the Republicans backing the legislation of wanting to ‘fix the election like they do in third-world countries.’”

SOLYNDRA FALLOUT: SENATOR UNDER SCRUTINY “Republican Sen. David Vitter says the Obama administration has been ‘reckless’ as it awards billions of dollar taxpayer subsidies for renewable energy projects, including a $528 million loan to a now-bankrupt California solar panel maker. The Louisiana senator and other Republicans have pounced on the bankruptcy of Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra Inc., saying the White House rushed to approve a loan guarantee to the politically connected company without adequate oversight. But Vitter was not always so critical of the loan program,” according to the Associated Press. “[Vitter]wrote to the Energy Department at least seven times since 2009 seeking money for projects that would benefit his home state. One of the projects backed by Vitter, a company that makes activated carbon to reduce pollution at coal-fired power plants, has received preliminary approval for a $245 million loan guarantee. The project has not yet received any money. In April 2009, Vitter urged Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve a loan for Red River Environmental Products, saying the Coushatta, La., company could help meet a growing demand for products that help power plants comply with stricter federal regulation of mercury emissions.”


It is one of the LARGEST healthcare fraud settlements ever.  Last week Maxim healthcare Services agreed to pay $150 million in penalties and fines and a number of its employees have pleaded guilty to felony charges in several states.  63 year old Richard West, a Vietnam vet who sits in a wheelchair with tubes protruding from his neck, made it all happen. Baltimore Sun Reporter  Jay Hancock tells his story and calls West a “Role Model for Fraud Detection.”


But it wasn’t easy.  It took him eight years!  Hancock writes that West began to notice that nurses assigned to care for him were charging for “hundreds of hours of work they never did.”  The article says West alerted state officials but they ignored him.  Next he went to Medicaid, the federal/state program paying for his care but they did nothing.  He told social workers who seemed sympathetic but they declined to take any action.  Hancock says West kept spreadsheets “documenting more than 700 hours of bogus charges.”  He found an attorney who specializes in whistleblower cases and together they put together a case.  But Hancock says it was filed under court seal in 2004 while the federal government built its own case.  Last week the court document was unsealed, Maxim agreed to pay that $150 million fine  and West was awarded $14.8 million of it.  It is important to note that the award Richard West will receive comes from the penalty that Maxim is paying, not from taxpayer funds.  West told the sun he will give a good deal of it to disability causes, though he says he will use some to fix his van and his house.


“Forget the money,” he told Hancock. “Making the system work better is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done!”


@ anoyes : Just announced:  @GOPLeader  @GOPWhip  @RepPaulRyan on @FacebookLive w/ Sheryl Sandberg 9/26 3p PT. More info:

@ DanaPerino : Mitch Daniels’ book is excellent – very well thought through arguments for how to fix usa problems. Highly recommend it.

@ shiratoeplitz : Just how big will the  #TX  #redistrict battle be this year? We get our first clue today. My story:

@ aterkel : Mayor  @Villaraigosa heading to DC this week: Jobs gridlock igniting ‘collective frustration’ amongst mayors.

@ dsakowich_WMUR : Ovide Lamontagne announces run for NH Governor at Republican breakfast in Bedford  #wmur  #nhpolitics



(all times local)

Rick Santorum addresses the Bedford Republican Breakfast in Bedford, N.H., at 7 a.m.

Rick Perry holds fundraisers in New York.

* 912 Western Iowa hosts Newt and Callista Gingrich for a screening of their documentary A City Upon A Hill in Council Bluffs, Iowa at 6 p.m.

Gary Johnson attends the Bedford Republican Committee Annual Breakfast at Manchester Country Club in Bedford, N.H., at 7 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., Johnson meets with the Nashua Telegraph editorial board. At 2 p.m., he visits Chappell Tractor in Milford before stopping by Citronics at 2:30 p.m.

The Note Futures Calendar:


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