Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
Even after a hard-fought deficit-cutting deal in 2011 and a tax-increase measure in January, Washington still has a considerable way to go to wrestle intractable budget deficits under control. The Congressional Budget Office estimates cumulative deficits of roughly $7 trillion over the coming decade and warns “such high and rising debt would have serious consequences,” including higher interest costs for the government, reduced national savings and investment and a potential fiscal crisis.
The campaign promise:
“I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan.” — President Barack Obama, Oct. 3, 2012, presidential debate.
Obama based the $4 trillion claim on last year’s budget and updated it in the budget he released in April. It incorporates $2.6 trillion in deficit savings already achieved by capping annual appropriations bills over a decade, the January tax increase on wealthier earners and the resulting savings on interest payments on the debt. The rest would come from a 10-year $583 billion tax increase, an additional layer of tax increases from slower indexing of tax brackets for inflation, modest curbs to federal health care programs and further savings on interest payments on the $16 trillion national debt.
In budget circles, $4 trillion in deficit cuts is an important figure because that’s the amount of savings claimed by Obama’s own deficit commission, co-chaired by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. Bowles’ plan set an enduring marker in the deficit debate in late 2010; it went after sacred cows of both Democrats and Republicans, proposing large tax increases and controversial cuts to benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, including raising the eligibility age for both.
Bowles’ 2010 plan was actually far tougher than Obama’s and would generate significantly greater deficit savings. One reason: The same policy prescriptions that would have yielded $4 trillion over a decade in deficit savings if enacted in 2011 would produce far more in a 10-year time frame starting now.
Obama’s accounting can be iffy, too. His plan fails to account for deficit-increasing moves also enacted during his presidency, like a two-year, approximately $240 billion reduction in the Social Security payroll tax and another two years of additional unemployment benefits. It also assumes its mix of tax increases and spending cuts would replace the automatic spending cuts going into place now.
Regardless, it’s questionable whether Washington will get to $4 trillion. A round of talks between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, collapsed in December. The two sides were not that far apart, at least on paper, as they looked to add $2 trillion or more in deficit savings on top of those already accomplished. Boehner broke off the talks.
Instead, Obama won more than $600 billion over 10 years in higher taxes on wealthier earners, but the episode produced lots of bad feelings and Boehner and every other GOP leader on Capitol Hill promise there will be no further tax increases now — even though some of them had once supported a higher net new revenue figure than Obama won in January.
Obama, for his part, says there will be no budget pact without additional revenues.
How it will end up is at best a guess. Obama is looking to Senate Republicans to build momentum for a deal this year and his April 10 budget includes proposals, like a less generous cost-of-living increase for Social Security, that haven’t been a part of his previous budgets.
Any budget deal with both tax increases and cuts to politically popular benefit programs will ultimately have to pass through a gauntlet of tea party Republicans and liberal Democrats. The need to raise the government’s borrowing cap also may be pushed off until the fall, delaying the moment in which it all comes to a head.
Republicans say it’ll take presidential leadership and a willingness to take on liberal interest groups to break the impasse. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., thinks a smaller-scale agreement is more likely than an elusive “grand bargain.”
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.