Published: Thursday 27 December 2012
From the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to Afghanistan, to Somalia, the flood of U.S. weapons and ammunition fuels violence, death and injury.

 

While the final funerals for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre have been held, gun violence continues apace, most notably with the Christmas Eve murder of two volunteer firefighters in rural Webster, N.Y., at the hands of an ex-convict who was armed, as was the Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, with a Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. James Holmes, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre last July in Aurora, Colo., stands accused of using, among other weapons, a Smith & Wesson AR-15 with a 100-round drum in place of standard magazine clip. Standing stalwartly against any regulation of these weapons and high-capacity magazines, the National Rifle Association continues to block any gun-control laws whatsoever, and even trumpets its efforts to block the global Arms Trade Treaty, slated for negotiations at the United Nations this March.

On Christmas Eve, the same day as the attack in Webster, the U.N. General Assembly voted to move ahead with 10 days of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, to commence March 18. Recall, it was last July that the Obama administration said it “needed more time” to review the proposed treaty, effectively killing any hope of getting a treaty passed and sent back to member nations for ratification. This was just one week after the Aurora massacre, and in the heat of a close presidential-election campaign. The NRA succeeded in helping to scuttle the global Arms Trade Treaty, delivering to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter opposing the treaty signed by 50 U.S. senators, including eight Democrats, and 130 members of the House of Representatives.

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Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
The Republicans should not have been caught off-guard by Americans’ interest in issues like disenfranchisement and gender equality

 

After a hard-fought election campaign, costing well in excess of $2 billion, it seems to many observers that not much has changed in American politics: Barack Obama is still President, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate. With America facing a “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of 2013 that will most likely drive the economy into recession unless bipartisan agreement on an alternative fiscal path is reached – could there be anything worse than continued political gridlock?
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In fact, the election had several salutary effects – beyond showing that unbridled corporate spending could not buy an election, and that demographic changes in the United States may doom Republican extremism. The Republicans’ explicit campaign of disenfranchisement in some states – like Pennsylvania, where they tried to make it more difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to register to vote – backfired: those whose rights were threatened were motivated to turn out and exercise them. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and tireless warrior for reforms to protect ordinary citizens from banks’ abusive practices, won a seat in the Senate.

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Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
Published: Monday 12 November 2012
“The real problem is tax avoidance: lost revenue from tax expenditures (deferrals and deductions), corporate tax avoidance, and tax haven losses could pay off the entire deficit.”

Mitt Romney said he wasn't concerned about the very poor, because they have a safety net. This is typical of the widespread ignorance about inequality in our country. Struggling Americans want jobs, not handouts, and for the most part they've paid for their "safety net." The real problem is at the other end of the wealth gap.

How many people know that out of 150 countries, we have the 4th-highest wealth disparity? Only Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Switzerland are worse.

It's not just economic inequality that's plaguing our country. It's lack of opportunity. It's a dismissal of poor people as lazy, or as threats to society. More than any other issue over the next four years, we need to address the growing divide in our nation, to tone down our winner-take-all philosophy, to provide job opportunities for people who want to contribute to society.

Here are some of the common misconceptions:

1. Americans believe that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth.

Most people greatly underestimate the level of inequality in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. Out of every dollar, they own a third of a penny.

Factor in race, and it gets worse. Much of minority wealth exists in home values. But housing crashed, while the financial wealth owned almost entirely (93% of it) by the richest quintile of Americans has rebounded to lofty pre-recession levels.

As a result, for every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Median wealth for a single white woman is over $40,000. For black and Hispanic women it is a little over $100.

2. Entitlements are the problem

No, they're not. The evidence is overwhelming. Social Security is a popular and well-run program. As summarized by Bernie Sanders, "Social Security, which is funded by the ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
The House of Representatives is the most anti-environment in Congressional history, averaging at least one anti-environment vote per day to eliminate or undermine pollution protections, many benefiting Big Oil.

Starting tomorrow, the world’s largest oil companies — ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips — will begin to announce their third-quarter profits for 2012. In the first half of 2012, these companies — all ranked in the top 10 of Fortune 500 Global — earned over $60 billion.

The oil industry reinvests tens of millions of these dollars for political purposes, including nearly all political contributions to Republicans, lobbying, and campaign ads. Through its enormous spending, these five and other Big Oil companies have fought to maintain $4 billion of their annual subsidies, while seeking to undermine clean energy investments:

$105 Million On Lobbying Since 2011, 90 Percent Of Campaign Contributions To GOP:  The big five companies have spent over $105 million on lobbying Congress since 2011, according to lobbying disclosures through the third quarter. The biggest spenders were Shell ($25.7 million), Exxon ($25.4 million), and ConocoPhillips ($22.9 million). The five companies’ oil PACs have donated over $2.16 million to mostly Republican candidates this election cycle. Koch Industries also spends big money to pressure Congress, with $16.2 million on lobbying and more than $1.3 million from its PAC (the top oil and gas spender). In total, the oil and gas industry sends 

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“Who are the voting champions for people who work for wages, dream of health insurance, and aspire to education their children without decades of debt?”

Do you wonder which members of Congress routinely side with the richest 1 percent and Wall Street?  Which lawmakers consistently vote to cut taxes for the rich, protect off-shore tax havens for transnational tax dodgers, and ensure that wealth is taxed more favorably than income from work?  Who tirelessly side with global corporations at the expense of domestic small businesses?

On the other hand, are you curious which members of Congress are committed to an economy that works for everyone, not just the 1 percent? What lawmakers back a level playing field between small business and transnational corporate conglomerates? Who are the voting champions for people who work for wages, dream of health insurance, and aspire to education their children without decades of debt?

In the new “Congressional Report Card for the 99 Percent" (full disclosure—I'm a co-author), the Institute for Policy Studies examined 40 different legislation actions in the House and Senate—votes and legislation introduced—to ascertain the real allegiances of sitting members of Congress. These include votes to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, levy a Wall Street speculation tax, invest in infrastructure, and protect workers and student financial aid.

Not surprisingly, the most promiscuous protectors of the privileged were Republicans. But 17 lawmakers in the Democratic party also got low marks. For example, in the U.S. Senate, Montana Senator Jon Tester and Virginia Senator Jim Webb—sometimes considered progressive—showed up on the list of “1 Percent Friendly Democrats.” Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joseph Leiberman (I

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
“Who’s paying for the $1 trillion of annual tax savings and tax avoidance for the super-rich?”

 

There is no shortage of reasons not to vote Republican. The litany includes tax cuts for the rich, cutbacks in government programs, obstructing needed legislation, disregard for the environment, denial of women's and other human rights, military escalation. 

 

But the following five reasons have to do with money -- specifically, who's paying for the $1 trillion of annual tax savings and tax avoidance for the super-rich? And who's paying for the $1 trillion of national security to protect their growing fortunes? The Republicans want that money to come from the rest of us. 

 

1. Economic Darwinism -- Republicans want the Poor to Pay

 

Paul Ryan's proposed budget would take about a half-trillion dollars a year from programs that support the poor. This is a continuation of a 15-year shredding of the safety net by Republicans. The GOP-controlled Congress of Bill Clinton created Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which has experienced a 60% drop in its caseload despite growing poverty, and which, according to the Urban Institute, provides "maximum benefits [that] even in the more generous states were far below the federal poverty level of $1,525 a month for a family of three." 

 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), another ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Three provisions in the bill would make it more difficult to regulate the safety of genetically modified crops. Consumers fight back with a flurry of organizing.

 

Hidden among the cluttered news cycle of this election season is a crucial debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

September 30 marked the expiration of the 2007 Farm Bill, and the 2012 replacement is now sitting in the House of Representatives. It is unlikely that Congress will vote on the bill until after the elections, so food-safety advocates are ramping up their outreach efforts around this issue in advance of any decision.

What’s the big deal with the new bill? Most importantly, the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill contains three industry-friendly provisions, numbered 10011, 10013, and 10014. Collectively, they have come to be known as the “Monsanto Rider,” and the name is entirely appropriate. If passed, this bill would make it more difficult to stem the tide of GMO foods hitting store shelves.These three provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill would grant regulatory powers solely to the United States Department of Agriculture, preventing other federal agencies from reviewing GMO applications and preventing the USDA from accepting outside money for further study. The bill ...

Published: Sunday 30 September 2012
“The night before the nation received its latest bad news on unemployment, Christie told a cheering Republican crowd that the nation’s jobless were lazy examples of an entitlement mentality.”

It's one of the dumbest, most insulting, dismissive, and frequently heard bits of rhetoric spewed forth from the sneering mouths of conservative pundits and politicos. So, it stands to reason that congressional Republicans would like to make it the law of the land. Michelle Bachmann offered it as advice to Warren Buffet, and served up another version of the same during the GOP primary debates. But nobody put it more than that "heartless, smug, bullying embodiment of the Republican Party," READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 16 September 2012
“More serious is the Republicans’ proposal for an annual audit of the United States Federal Reserve.”

The party platform adopted at the Republican National Convention includes a number of remarkable planks. To a monetary economist, for example, the party’s proposal to restore some kind of metallic monetary standard is so outlandish as to be an almost irresistible target.

 

More serious is the Republicans’ proposal for an annual audit of the United States Federal Reserve. This, like the gold-standard plank, is partly designed to appeal to the libertarian followers of Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and perennial presidential candidate who is hugely popular with the Republicans’ “Tea Party” wing. While Paul would go further, and abolish the Fed altogether, several bills in the US Congress have mandated an annual audit; earlier this year, one such bill was passed by the House of Representatives (but not the Senate).

 

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The Republicans’ embrace of the audit idea taps into libertarians’ general distrust of government. But there is also distrust of the Fed on more specific grounds – distrust that extends well beyond the ranks of the Tea Party. The Fed, its critics complain, has used its expansive powers to engage in a range of unprecedented interventions that have propped up large financial institutions. So the monetary authorities, they argue, must be in the pockets of powerful bankers.

 

To be sure, central bankers should be democratically accountable for ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
Published: Monday 13 August 2012
This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation, and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness.

 

As Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney names Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate, we speak with two Wisconsinites about the seven-term congressman's record, and how his views are influenced by the controversial philosopher, Ayn Rand. "This is not necessarily a foolish choice by Romney," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine. "It is an extreme choice and it does define the national Republican Party toward a place where the Wisconsin Republican Party is — which is very anti-labor, willing to make deep cuts in education, public services, and frankly, very combative on issues like voter ID and a host of other things that really go to the core question of how successful and how functional our democracy will be." Ryan is chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee and architect of a controversial budget plan to cut federal spending by more than $5 trillion over the next 10 years. "Ryan gets a lot of mileage for understanding so-called the budget and economics," says Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine. "But if you look closely, he doesn't really get it." Democrats argue Ryan's planned Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security reform would essentially dismantle key components of the social safety net.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the latest news in the U.S. presidential race. On Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would be his vice-presidential running mate. Ryan, now 42, was elected to the House of Representatives at 28. He’s a Republican representative. He’s also chair of the House of Representatives Budget Committee. He spoke in Virginia right after his selection was made.

REP. PAUL RYAN: I’ve been ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“Today, just days before legislators will head home or back to the campaign trail for the August recess, the United States Postal Service will default — for the first time in history — on a $5.5 billion payment meant to fund future retirees’ benefits.”

 

Last summer, the House of Representatives set aside arduous debt ceiling negotiations to focus on a longstanding congressional pastime: renaming post offices.

Today, just days before legislators will head home or back to the campaign trail for the August recess, the United States Postal Service will default — for the first time in history — on a $5.5 billion payment meant to fund future retirees’ benefits.

During the 112th Congress, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. In fact, of the 151 laws ...

Published: Wednesday 1 August 2012
“Despite slightly lower oil and gasoline prices over the past three months, these companies still made a combined $236,000 per minute this year.”

Second-Quarter Earnings Race Ahead, Boosted by Tax Breaks

Middle-class families may have gotten some relief in the second quarter of 2012 due to slightly lower gasoline prices compared to the first quarter of the year, but billions of dollars in big profits continue to pile up at the Big Oil companies. In the first half of 2012, the five biggest oil companies—BP plc, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corp., and Royal Dutch Shell Group—earned a combined $62.2 billion, or $341 million per day. This compares to an average dip in the average price of gas at the pump for American consumers of a mere 3 cents per gallon between the first and second quarters.

Despite slightly lower oil and gasoline prices over the past three months, these companies still made a combined $236,000 per minute this year. This income is more than what 96 percent of American households earn in an entire year.

Table

Profits continued to grow for ExxonMobil and Chevron, while dropping slightly for ConocoPhillips and Shell compared to last year. ExxonMobil saw a 67 percent increase in profits while Chevron enjoyed an 11 percent increase. The New York Times reported that these slightly lower profits compared to the second quarter of 2011 were linked to “international benchmark prices for oil [which] had declined by more than 7 percent in the second quarter, compared to the same period last year when turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East caused a spike in oil ...

Published: Thursday 26 July 2012
Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
If people knew what Republicans were doing... but they don’t. In the 2010 election Repubicans spent hundreds of millions on ads telling the public that Democrats had “cut half a trillion from Medicare.”

Last week Republicans filibustered the Bring Jobs Home Act, when polls showdramatic support for ending tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Last week Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE Act which would at least let us know who is pumping hundreds of millions into our election, when polls show overwhelming opposition to corporate purchases of politicians. That's two BIG ones, and that's just last week. You'd think that would clinch the election -- but the public doesn't know who to blame. In a democracy accountability is important but in a plutocracy impunity carries the day.

Campaigned Saying Dems Cut Medicare - Got Voted In And Eliminated Medicare

If people knew what Republicans were doing... but they don't. In the 2010 election Repubicans spent hundreds of millions on ads telling the public that Democrats had "cut half a trillion from Medicare." So the public "knew" that and Republicans took the senior vote for the first time, enabling them to gain a majority in the House. Except it wasn't true. And when Repubicans got into office they passed a budget that ... pretty much eliminates Medicare.

Eliminating Medicare Only The Beginning

That budget that eliminates Medicare is called the Ryan budget (more recently called the Romney-Ryan budget), and it was passed by House Repubicans. Here are just some of the things this budget -- already passed by House Republicans and endorsed by Mitt Romney -- does:

  • Raises taxes on wage earners who make between $50,000 to $100,000 by $1,300
  • Raises taxes on those who make between $100,000 to $200,000 by $2,600
  • Cuts taxes on those who make between $500,000 and $1 million by $35,000
  • Cuts taxes on those who make over a million dollars ...
Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
It doesn't matter if the district is blue or red, or has a defense manufacturing plant.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington may disagree about cutting the defense budget, but their constituents are generally in accord that it should shrink next year by a fifth to a sixth of its present size, according to a public opinion survey by the Program for Public Consultation, the Center for Public Integrity and the Stimson Center, a nonprofit think-tank.

The three groups first reported the existence of a broad public consensus in favor of military spending reductions in May, after conducting a unique nationwide survey in which respondents received information about the defense budget and had the chance to read multiple pro and con arguments about the military budget like those circulating on Capitol Hill.

Now a more detailed analysis of the results of that survey has shown that majorities in both red and blue congressional districts — those with Republican and Democratic representation, respectively — strongly support the idea that the defense budget should be cut more than politicians in Washington are considering.

The Obama administration has only proposed to reduce planned military spending increases, leaving the budget mostly flat over the next decade. Republican presidential candidate ...

Published: Wednesday 4 July 2012
Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013.

The United States has just completed its third year of economic recovery, but the unemployment rate remains above 8%, and there are worrisome signs of a slowdown. So it is no surprise that jobs have become a major focus in the presidential campaign – or that the candidates have very different ideas about how to boost employment.Last autumn, President Barack Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a $450 billion package of fiscal measures aimed at job creation. The AJA amounted to about 3% of GDP and was designed to take effect in 2012, providing a timely employment boost and insurance for the US recovery against global headwinds. Most of its measures had enjoyed bipartisan support in the past; tax cuts comprised about 56% of the total cost; and the package was paid for in Obama’s long-term deficit reduction plan.

 

Several independent economists concluded that Obama’s plan would provide a significant lift to the job market in 2012-2013. Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also found that most of the AJA’s policies ranked high in budgetary effectiveness, measured by the number of jobs created in 2012-2013 per dollar of budgetary cost.

 

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The AJA was filibustered by Senate Republicans, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives likewise prevented the bill from coming to a vote. Mitt Romney, now the ...

Published: Saturday 30 June 2012
Published: Monday 25 June 2012
Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
Published: Friday 1 June 2012
“The bill in question has been criticized by doctors, civil rights and women’s groups as unconstitutional, an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and ineffective in preventing sex-selective abortions.”

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly advocated for a bill that undermines women's health and reproductive rights under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions, threatening to shame the bill's opponents as "in sync" with China's one-child policy. However, the bill in question has been criticized by doctors, civil rights and women's groups as unconstitutional, an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and ineffective in preventing sex-selective abortions.

O'Reilly: House Members Who Oppose Bill Are "In Sync" With China's One-Child PolicyIn Lobbying For Anti-Women's Rights Bill, O'Reilly Threatens To Shame Congressional Members Who Oppose It. From the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Today, Planned Parenthood endorsed President Obama less than 24 hours afterThe Factor broadcast a shocking story showing a Planned Parenthood counselor in Texas advising a woman on how to abort her fetus if it turned out to be a girl.

O'REILLY: Now, there is no question that Planned Parenthood is a pro-abortion outfit, which has been in trouble for years. Undercover videos have documented underage abortions, abortion advice associated with prostitution, and now gender-based abortion guidance. Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on outlawing gender-based abortions. We'll have special coverage on that.

And we'll name the names of congresspeople who vote against the bill, perhaps advising them they're in sync with China's abhorrent abortion policy. [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 5/30/12]

In Fact, Bill ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a dangerous piece of legislation (H.R. 4133) which would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, weaken Israeli moderates and peace advocates, undercut international law, further militarize the Middle East, and make Israel ever more dependent on the United States.”

 

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a dangerous piece of legislation (H.R. 4133) which would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, weaken Israeli moderates and peace advocates, undercut international law, further militarize the Middle East, and make Israel ever more dependent on the United States.

The margin was an overwhelming 411-2, with eight abstentions.

House minority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in co-sponsoring the bill, an indication of how closely the Democratic Party leadership aligns with the most right-wing Republicans when it comes to U.S. Middle East policy.

Indeed, the way the Democratic Party is now allied with the Republican Right could not be more obvious than the fact ...

Published: Monday 28 May 2012
“The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.”

 

Are you wondering where your tax dollars are going? Then take a look at the $642.5 billion stuffed into the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House of Representatives recently approved.

House Republicans may spout plenty of concern about the nation's budget deficit, but their version of the Pentagon's budget tops the spending levels they had agreed to a few months ago by $8 billion. It's also $4 billion above the total that President Barack Obama and the Pentagon requested.

These politicians are trying to fund Cold War-era weapons that our military doesn't want and that have been dismissed as outdated and unnecessary by the top brass — leaders like Gen. James Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the country's nuclear forces.

The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.

Military spending has played a significant role in increasing the national debt. Over the last decade, the Pentagon's budget has nearly doubled.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also contributed to this soaring increase in defense spending and to record deficits.

The drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq should mean the Pentagon will spend less. But giant military contractors have dumped a fortune into campaign contributions and lobbying, making sure that any and all anticipated savings are going to expensive weapons systems — all paid for by you through your taxes.

The 10 biggest government contractors are all military contractors. These companies each spend millions of dollars a year on political contributions and then millions more on lobbying campaigns. After the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, these contractors are spending even more to win over lawmakers. And ...

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
“The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget.”

Recent months have seen a flurry of headlines about cuts (often called “threats”) to the U.S. defense budget. Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives even passed a bill that was meant to spare national security spending from future cuts by reducing school-lunch funding and other social programs.  

Here, then, is a simple question that, for some curious reason, no one bothers to ask, no less answer: How much are we spending on national security these days? With major wars winding down, has Washington already cut such spending so close to the bone that further reductions would be perilous to our safety?

In fact, with projected cuts added in, the national security budget in fiscal 2013 will be nearly $1 trillion -- a staggering enough sum that it’s worth taking a walk through the maze of the national security budget to see just where that money’s lodged.

If you’ve heard a number for how much the U.S. spends on the military, it’s probably in the neighborhood of $530 billion. That’s the Pentagon’s base budget for fiscal 2013, and represents a 2.5% cut from 2012. But that $530 billion is merely the beginning of what the U.S. ...

Published: Thursday 17 May 2012
Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
“The title of the meeting gives away the real political intent: ‘The Obama Administration’s Green Energy Gamble: What Have All The Taxpayer Subsidies Achieved?’”

In an attempt to keep the political war against renewable energy in the headlines, Republicans are holding another hearing to question the value of government investments in the sector.

Looks like ten political sideshows on Solyndra weren’t enough.

If tomorrow morning’s hearing were being used as a chance to objectively assess where the industry stands, that would be one thing. But the title of the meeting gives away the real political intent: “The Obama Administration’s Green Energy Gamble: What Have All The Taxpayer Subsidies Achieved?

Actually, those green energy investments have yielded substantial returns. And before the political grandstanding begins in the House of Representatives tomorrow, here are five important things you should know about how promotion of clean energy has supported American businesses and consumers:

1. The 1603 grant program supported up to 75,000 jobs and 23,000 renewable energy projects during the height of the recession. When the recession hit, it was very difficult for project developers to find banks that were willing to utilize tax credits. So a cash grant program was created to give companies an easier way to finance projects. While it’s very difficult to know the exact influence of the grant on each project, the program played a major role in maintaining momentum — helping support $25 billion in gross ...

Published: Sunday 6 May 2012
Final sales to households, businesses, and foreign buyers rose at only a 1.1% annual rate, even slower than earlier in the year.

America’s presidential election is now just six months away. If history is a reliable guide, the outcome will depend significantly on the economy’s performance between now and November 6, and on Americans’ perception of their economic future under the two candidates.

At the moment, America’s economy is limping along with slow growth and high unemployment. Output grew by just 1.5% last year, and real GDPper capita is lower now than before the economic downturn began at the end of 2007. Although annual GDP growth was 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, more than half of that reflected inventory accumulation. Final sales to households, businesses, and foreign buyers rose at only a 1.1% annual rate, even slower than earlier in the year. And the preliminary estimate for annual GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 was a disappointing 2.2%, with only a 1.6% rise in final sales.

The labor market has been similarly disappointing. The March unemployment rate of 8.2% was nearly three percentage points above what most economists would consider a desirable and sustainable long-run level rate. Although the rate was down from 9% a year ago, about half of the change reflected a rise in the number of people who have stopped looking for work, rather than an increase in job creation and the employment rate.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Martin Feldstein, click here.

Indeed, the official unemployment rate understates the weakness of the labor market. An estimated 6% of all employees are working fewer hours per week than they would like, and about 2% of potential employees are not counted as ...

Published: Friday 4 May 2012
“Tax cuts do not equal an aggressive jobs program,” Smiley said, responding to such proposals as a recently passed bill in the House of Representatives that would give $46 billion in tax cuts to so-called “small businesses,” even those that earn hundreds of millions of dollars, in the name of job creation.

 

As the political establishment prepares to do battle Friday over what is likely to be another mediocre jobs report, talk-show host Tavis Smiley this afternoon called for a living-wage jobs program as part of an all-out offensive against poverty in America.

"What we need is a program for creating jobs with a living wage," Smiley said during a conference call set up to promote the book he wrote with author and educator Cornel West, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto."

The book is an in-depth look at income inequality in America and its political, economic, and moral dimensions. Smiley calls poverty "the moral and spiritual issue of our time" and is urging the White House to convene a "conference on the eradication of poverty" that would come up with a specific plan with concrete benchmarks for lowering the national poverty rate.

And without question, jobs would be a central part of that agenda.

"Tax cuts do not equal an aggressive jobs program," Smiley said, responding to such proposals as a recently passed bill in the House of Representatives that would give $46 billion in tax cuts to so-called "small businesses," even those that earn hundreds of millions of dollars, in the name of job creation. That legislation, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, would actually have had too small an effect on the economy to be measured.

What Smiley and West call for is a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour; the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage is higher in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but the highest minimum wage in the country is $8.80 an hour, in Oregon.

Smiley's call ...

Published: Friday 27 April 2012
“SOPA was about intellectual property; CISPA is about cyber security, but opponents believe both bills have the potential to trample constitutional rights.”

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, up for debate in the House of Representatives today, has privacy activists, tech companies, security wonks and the Obama administration all jousting about what it means – not only for security but Internet privacy and intellectual property. Backers expect CISPA to pass, unlike SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that melted down amid controversy earlier this year.

Here’s a rundown on the debate and what CISPA could mean for Internet users.

What exactly is CISPA?

The act, sponsored Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., would make it easier for private corporations and U.S. agencies, including military and intelligence, to share information related to “cyber threats.” In theory, this would enable the government and companies to keep up-to-date on security risks and protect themselves more efficiently. CISPA would amend the National Security Act of 1947, which currently contains no reference to cyber security. Companies wouldn’t be required to share any data. They would just be allowed to do so.

Why should I care?

CISPA could enable companies like Facebook and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers, to share your personal information with the National Security Agency and the CIA, as long as that information is deemed to pertain to a cyber threat or to national security.

How does the bill define “cyber threat”?

The bill itself defines it as information "pertaining to a vulnerability ...

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
The White House insists that it’s putting the executive order on hold in order to build legislative support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act or ENDA, which would prohibit all employers from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

Gay rights activists are planning to challenge the White House’s decision to delay an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracting and plan to launch a “We Can’t Wait” campaign to urge President Obama to reverse course and issue the directive ahead of the November elections. The effort, which co-opts one of the Obama campaign’s own slogans, will be funded by “Jonathan Lewis, son of billionaire Democratic benefactor Peter Lewis”:

[Lewis] said he would spend $100,000 to fund a “We Can’t Wait” campaign targeting Obama, a takeoff on the president’s own slogan for his efforts to use administrative actions as end runs around what he has termed an obstructionist Congress. The donor’s money will be used to fly victims of discrimination at federal contractors to Washington to confront Obama and his aides and gin up public attention. [...]

“[Obama] has not been able to provide a single valid reason for why he is now refusing to sign the executive order protecting LGBT workers,” the younger Lewis added, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “It has become increasingly clear that this decision is based on cowardice rather than principled leadership.”

The White House insists that it’s putting the executive order on hold in order to build legislative support for the Employment ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

What can the people who run super PACs do with all the cash they have collected when their favorite candidate drops out of the race?

“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign Tuesday means the “Red, White and Blue Fund” super PAC, which supported him, is without a candidate. The organization and its benefactors helped the under-funded Santorum stay in the game.

The group will continue to advocate for conservatives, but there’s no rule that says it has to.

“Pretty much any use of super PAC money — other than coordinating expenditures with candidates or contributing to candidates – would be a legal and permissible use,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Practical considerations would likely prevent super PAC operatives from doing something extravagant — like buying a yacht or taking a junket to the Caribbean. Such a purchase would be “career suicide,” Ryan said.

Red, White and Blue founder Nick Ryan said the PAC will work to defeat President Barack Obama, “strengthen the conservative majority in the House of Representatives” and “oust the liberal leadership in the Senate.”

Super PACs are permitted to collect unlimited sums from individuals, unions and corporations and spend the money on ads and other materials supporting or opposing a candidate. The only prohibition is that they cannot coordinate their expenditures with the candidates’ campaigns.

Through February, the Red, White and Blue Fund raised nearly $6 million, which provided Santorum with a significant boost. After a ...

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
“The Budget for All stands for progressive taxation. The Republican budget cuts taxes for the 1 percent and shifts economic burdens to the 99 percent.”

Later this week on the floor of the House of Representatives, several federal budget proposals embodying different approaches to our country's economic challenges will compete for attention. One of those, the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Budget for All," offers the most dramatic contrast between the effort by House Republicans to double down on the failed conservative policies of the past and a contrasting approach that is our only real hope for rebuilding the middle class and getting the nation out from under the specter of crushing debt.

We all should be rallying behind the Budget for All as a counter to the Budget for the 1 Percent that the House Republicans have put forward under the leadership of Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Here are three reasons why.

The Budget for All will create jobs. The Republican Budget for the 1 Percent will kill them.

The Budget for All contains a long list of initiatives, more than $2 trillion worth, designed to put people to work doing jobs that need to be done, such as repairing schools, upgrading and expanding our transportation network, protecting our communities, providing health care and other services to those in need. The Republican budget would slash discretionary spending by $38 billion below the ...

Published: Saturday 24 March 2012
Published: Tuesday 20 March 2012
Published: Thursday 15 March 2012
“Under the Senate bill, the five states would divide 35 percent of the money equally, 60 percent would be directed to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and 5 percent would go to a new Gulf science and fisheries program.”

The Senate approved a highway bill Wednesday that includes a long-sought provision for the Gulf Coast: A guarantee that 80 percent of the fines collected from the April 2010 BP oil spill — an amount that could reach $20 billion — would be distributed for coastal restoration to the five states along the Gulf of Mexico: Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and Alabama.

While the bill faces an uncertain outlook in the House of Representatives, Gulf state lawmakers are anxious for Congress to adopt the amendment on the so-called RESTORE Act before a settlement is reached with the Department of Justice and BP.

"I am hopeful that the Senate's overwhelming support for helping Gulf Coast states address long-term environmental and economic damages will be fairly considered by the House of Representatives," said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. "The nation needs an extended highway bill, and Gulf Coast states need assurance that Congress will allow them to have resources to recover from the oil spill."

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said, "As we approach the two-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, I am glad to have helped pass a bill to direct funds to coastal communities that were impacted."

Under the Senate bill, the five states would divide 35 percent of the money equally, 60 percent would be directed to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and 5 percent would go to a new Gulf science and fisheries program. The House-passed version of the amendment doesn't specify how the money would be distributed. If Congress doesn't act, the fines collected would go to the Treasury.

"I join with our senators in celebrating the fact that a majority on both sides of the Capitol have now committed to bringing most of the Clean Water Act fines back to the states affected by this tragedy," Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., said in a statement.

"These BP fine monies are vital in ...

Published: Wednesday 7 March 2012
‘Trespass Bill’ potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.--a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

As I write this op-ed, I primp for the mirror--looking for the most flattering pose--for my mug shot.  Now, don't get the wrong impression; I haven't been arrested and charged with a federal felony--yet.  Nor is the preparation done in anticipation of a guest stint on "America's Next Top Model"--but as a common sense reaction to Obama's predictable signing of the latest assault on the Bill of Rights--namely--H.R. 347 (and it's companion senate bill S. 1794); aka the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011."  Sounding more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds LANDSCAPING--this bill, better known to those in the DC beltway as the 'Trespass Bill'--potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.--a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version.

Rep. Thomas Rooney--HR 347 Sponsor...

Rep. Rooney, the proud sponsor of HR 347 has served in the Army as a JAG Corps attorney.  Since 2002 he has taught law at West Point with his specialty being Criminal Law and--Constitutional Law.  Ironically, this 'constitutional law' professor has no qualms criminalizing protest and free speech.  

H.R. 347 & Senate Companion Bill S. 1794--Criminalizing protest and free speech...

This bill makes protest of any type potentially a federal offense with anywhere from a year to 10 years in federal prison, providing it occurs in the presence of elites brandishing Secret Service protection, or during an ...

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012
“Obama’s decision last month to reject the full 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s tar sands has become a focal point of Republican efforts to portray him as responsible for the recent spike in gasoline prices.”

With President Barack Obama facing fire from Republicans over the rising cost of gasoline, the White House moved quickly Monday to trumpet a Canadian company's decision to build a section of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Houston after Obama blocked a longer path last month.

Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed TransCanada's announcement and used it to counter Republican criticism that the administration has stifled oil and gas production. He said that the Oklahoma to Texas section of the pipeline would "help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high."

The company's decision, Carney said, "highlights a little-known fact — certainly, you wouldn't hear it from some of our critics — that we approve, pipelines are approved and built in this country all the time."

Obama's decision last month to reject the full 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada's tar sands has become a focal point of Republican efforts to portray him as responsible for the recent spike in gasoline prices, and they fault him for blocking a project they say would create jobs and reduce America's dependence on oil imports from unstable foreign sources.

READ FULL POST 22 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
The debt forgiveness act originally had broad bipartisan support: It passed in the House of Representatives on a 386-to-27 vote.

You bought your house when the market was high and then lost your job. In order to avoid foreclosure, you negotiated a short sale for half of what you paid, ruining your credit rating for years and draining your bank account. But there is a tiny silver lining: Thanks to a 2007 law, you don't have to pay taxes on the $100,000 of debt your bank forgave as part of the short-sale agreement.

This week, real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney pointed out that this important tax break will ...

Published: Saturday 18 February 2012
Lawmakers congratulated themselves on finally reaching a quick compromise.

Congress on Friday overwhelmingly approved extending a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers through the end of the year, probably the biggest accomplishment lawmakers will be able to savor in 2012.

The rare bipartisan agreement, which also provides jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed and preserves Medicare payment rates to physicians, came without the hostility that's scarred economic debates since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

The House of Representatives voted 293-132 to approve the plan. Minutes later, the Senate agreed 60-36.

Under the bill, Social Security taxes for workers will remain at their current 4.2 percent level this year on wages up to $110,100. The rate was scheduled to go up by 2 percentage points next month. Friday's fix assures that the average worker earning $50,000 a year would continue to get a weekly break of $20.

Medicare payments to doctors, which had been scheduled to drop by 27.4 percent, will stay at current levels. Extended unemployment benefits for people who've been out of work for long stretches will continue, though for shorter periods.

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“It maintains a decade of red ink while putting off until after the election — at the earliest — any detailed proposals to fix long-term problems in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget is more campaign commercial than governing document.

His $3.8 trillion budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — and blueprint for the coming decade — is filled with promises sure to appeal to voters that he wants to win for his re-election in November, such as new spending to hire teachers and tax increases on the wealthy.

Yet it has no chance of passing Congress, where Republicans already have vetoed his calls for more spending and taxes. It offers little prospect of breaking the Washington cycle of lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis with temporary agreements and no consensus on permanent solutions. And it maintains a decade of red ink while putting off until after the election — at the earliest — any detailed proposals to fix long-term problems in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"It's not going to be enacted," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates fiscal responsibility. "It's designed to shape the campaign. There's a lot of spending for new investments and there's spending caps in the future so he can claim two things at once."

"The president's budget fails to lay out a substantive path to restore fiscal sanity," said David M. Walker, former director of the Government Accountability Office. "It does not include enough specifics regarding comprehensive tax reform and neglects any reforms to Social Security. It is not bold enough or specific enough regarding proposed changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other health reforms."

Obama unveiled his budget proposal at a community college in Annandale, Va., — a swing state he won in 2008 and is courting heavily this year — where he used the same broad themes he's used since Labor Day to frame the coming election.

"We've got a choice," he ...

Published: Sunday 22 January 2012
“Senators Graham, Levin, McCain and Congressman McKeon–along with the US Senate and House of Representatives are in ‘good company’with other alleged ‘republics’—mandating the suspension of civil liberties in the name of national security.”

December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively  sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.  Ironically, the abuse of civilian Iraqis by our military and by military contractors is coming to a locale near you.  Theoretically, armed squads of US soldiers might be knocking on your door in the dead of night to take away Auntie Mame for her alleged ‘terrorist’ activities—at the ACLU.  This bill potentially allows for the blatant political prosecutions of any dissenter using the military as a bully club to instill deep fear in any who dare to question our government’s motives.

No proof of wrongdoing is required and those accused are denied the due process right of trial by their peers, or the services of an attorney– and are subsequently relegated to the ‘military commissions justice system.’  As a result–the accused are reduced to the status of ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ and are subject to the following actions: ‘extroardinary rendition’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ procedures, ‘indefinite detention to possibly a  life sentence, and ‘presidential assigned extermination of target’ .  These powers are then ‘given’ to the President to use at will, fully codified in law,while requiring in reality no proof other than presidential whim.

It is at this juncture that I ...

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
The measure also provides for an expedited review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Congress on Friday quickly and quietly approved a two-month extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut, ending a week of rancor and assuring that more than 160 million people will avoid a 2 percentage point payroll tax increase next year.

But the calm, collegial legislative day was deceptive. When lawmakers return in January, they’ll remain far apart on agreeing to a longer-term deal.

The package approved Friday — a major victory for President Barack Obama and a setback for Republicans in the House of Representatives — will assure that the average employee will avoid paying $80 a month more in Social Security taxes after Jan. 1. The rate for employees will remain at the 2011 level of 4.2 percent. But if no action is taken before Feb. 29, it will rise to 6.2 percent.

Congress’ agreement, reached Thursday after rebellious House Republicans abandoned their bid for a one-year deal before Jan. 1, also continues current payment rates for Medicare physicians, which otherwise would have dropped by 27.4 percent starting Jan. 1, and retains up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers.

The measure also provides for an expedited review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile project would bring oil from oil ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
The standoff is about partisan positioning for next November’s elections.

 

The bitter showdown of Republicans versus the White House and congressional Democrats over a Social Security tax break grew uglier and more tense Tuesday, and the result is that 160 million people face the increasingly likely prospect of a tax increase Jan. 1.

 

The GOP-led House of Representatives, by a 229-193 vote, formally disagreed Tuesday with a bipartisan Senate plan to extend the current tax rate for two months. Employees have paid a 4.2 percent tax this year; it's scheduled to go up to 6.2 percent next year unless the current rate is extended. The House vote makes an increase likely.

 

House Republicans want a yearlong tax break, and they say terms for one can be negotiated over the next two weeks if the Democratic-led Senate will try. Most congressional Democrats are willing to go along with the Senate approach and negotiate toward the yearlong break after the holidays and before the two-month deadline. The Senate adjourned last week until mid-January.

 

In no small part, the standoff is about partisan positioning for next November’s elections. Each party thinks it can persuade voters that the other is being irresponsible.

 

After the House vote, an angry President Barack Obama warned, "The issue right now is this: The clock is ticking; time is running out." And, he said, the Senate bill is "the only viable way to prevent a tax hike January 1. It's the only one.”

 

He urged House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other House Republicans to "put politics aside, put aside issues where there are fundamental disagreements and come together on something we agree on. And let’s not play brinksmanship. The American people are weary of it; they’re tired of it."

 

Boehner was defiant: "We've done our work for the American people," he told a news conference. "Now it's ...

Published: Tuesday 20 December 2011
The GOP has done its best this year by denying regulators the money they need to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and blocking Obama administration nominations to regulatory posts.

After Republicans took over the House of Representatives in November 2010, the incoming House Financial Services Chairman, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), said he believes Washington’s role is to “serve the banks.” And the GOP has done its best this year to follow that directive, by denying regulators the money they need to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, trying to repeal or water down some of the law’s key provisions, and blocking Obama administration nominations to regulatory posts.

In the budget deal that averted a government shutdown last week, the GOP kept it up. While the Securities ...

Published: Tuesday 20 December 2011
“The Senate on Saturday overwhelmingly approved the two-month extension. But Boehner and other House Republicans want the lower rate in effect throughout 2012.”

Rebellious House of Representatives Republicans fought hard Monday to scuttle a two-month extension of the Social Security payroll tax break, seriously jeopardizing chances that 160 million taxpayers will see the lower rate after Jan. 1.

Speaker John Boehner flatly predicted the bid to keep the rate at its 2011 level of 4.2 percent for two months would fail in the House. A vote is expected Tuesday.  

"I expect that the House will disagree with the Senate," Boehner said.

The Senate on Saturday overwhelmingly approved the two-month extension. But Boehner and other House Republicans want the lower rate in effect throughout 2012.

Employees have been paying the tax at that rate this year. If no change is approved, they would pay 6.2 percent after Jan. 1.

The Senate bill was a bipartisan compromise, reached after negotiators were unable to agree on how to pay for a full-year plan. Democrats wanted a surtax on millionaires; the GOP proposal included a federal pay freeze.

A House defeat of the Senate package would set up a tense last-minute confrontation. Leaders of the two chambers would have to negotiate a compromise. But Senate Democrats, who control that chamber, balked at such talks.

"I will not reopen negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders and supported by 90 percent of the Senate," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The $33 billion Senate package also would extend for two months the current Medicare payment rates to physicians and up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers. It would be funded by higher fees charged by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The plan got substantial Republican support, and Monday, some GOP senators were angry that the House was balking.

"The House Republicans’ plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families ...

Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
In 1997, Gingrich became the only speaker in history to be reprimanded by the House of Representatives.

For a man who likes to tout his expertise as a historian, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has a decidedly revisionist approach when it comes to his own history.

In 1997, Gingrich became the only speaker in history to be reprimanded by the House of Representatives. He agreed to pay $300,000 to settle the matter, which involved using charitable groups to promote his political views and submitting misleading documents to the House ethics committee.

 

The ethics charges sound like ancient history. They involve dreary matters of tax law. But the episode is worth revisiting because it offers insights into Gingrich’s bombastic, push-the-boundaries style. More troubling, in recent days, Gingrich has been blatantly dishonest in his self-interested rewriting of this history, dismissing the ethics sanction as the action of “a very partisan political committee.”

As Gingrich relates the story, “The Democrats filed 84 charges against me; 83 were dismissed. The only one which survived was the fact that my lawyers had written a letter inaccurately and I signed it.”

Referring to California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who served on the panel, Gingrich

Published: Saturday 17 December 2011
Also included in the package would be a provision forcing the Obama administration to make an expedited decision on the Keystone pipeline.

The House of Representatives on Friday approved a $915 billion spending package that will keep the government running through Sept. 30, but a separate agreement aimed at avoiding a Social Security payroll tax increase Jan. 1 remained elusive.

The Senate is expected to approve the spending plan as soon as Saturday.

Without congressional action, many government agencies would run out of money as of midnight Friday, but any closings would be avoided as long as the plan is passed this weekend.

But facing another deadline, Senate leaders Friday reached a tentative deal to extend expiring provisions for two months. They would pay for the continuation of the Social Security tax cut and Medicare payments at current levels, and extension of certain jobless benefits with higher charges on mortgages financed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Also included in the package would be a provision forcing the Obama administration to make an expedited decision on the Keystone pipleine.

The two-month extension, which the Senate could vote on as soon as Saturday, is expected to stir controversy in both parties. It sets up an election year fight over the provisions. In addition, many lawmakers, already concerned constituents view them as ineffective, fear they'll have to go home next week without being able to resolve a major dispute.

The Social Security tax paid by employees, now 4.2 percent, is scheduled to revert to its 2010 level of 6.2 percent on Jan. 1. Also due next month: A 27.4 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians and a cutoff of unemployment benefits to long-term jobless workers.

Congressional leaders continued negotiating Friday and remained optimistic that a deal would be reached.

In the meantime, there was little rancor over the spending plan, which was passed by a 296-121 vote.

"This bill has been worked on carefully," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who called it a "positive step ...

Published: Saturday 10 December 2011
“Doolittle was one of several lawmakers caught up the turbulent wake of Jack Abramoff, the Republican uber-lobbyist who was released recently after serving three and a half years in prison on mail fraud and conspiracy charges.”

Meet John Doolittle, working stiff.

Sacramento, Calif.,-area residents once called him Republican state senator, then congressman. Federal prosecutors once called him, ominously, Representative 5. Now, starting over at the age of 61, he unashamedly calls himself a lobbyist.

"It's funny," Doolittle said. "That's such a negative term, but if people ask, that's what I say I am."

He laughed. He laughs easily, which is saying something, given all that's transpired.

"I know," said his former colleague Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., "that he and his wife went through a great deal."

Doolittle was one of several lawmakers caught up the turbulent wake of Jack Abramoff, the Republican uber-lobbyist who was released recently after serving three and a half years in prison on mail fraud and conspiracy charges. More than a dozen other individuals were convicted or pleaded guilty to assorted charges, though no charges were ever brought against Doolittle or his wife, Julie, who did event planning for Abramoff's firm.

John and Doolittle estimate that they shelled out more than $400,000 for attorneys' fees during a long-running corruption investigation that left them poorer but in the clear. Doctors' bills have tallied hundreds of thousands of dollars more, covering the exotic medical travails of Julie Doolittle.

They suffered the essentially involuntary end of John Doolittle's 28-year career in elective office. They saw his former legislative director sob as he was sentenced to four years in federal prison. They have, whatever one might say about Doolittle's politics, endured.

"It was painful to leave" Congress, Doolittle acknowledged, but "I'm going forward. Honestly, I don't look back."

Doolittle represented portions of the Sacramento area in the state Senate from 1981 through 1990. From 1991 through his 2008 retirement, he ...

Published: Thursday 1 December 2011
Rep. Barney Frank and the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, are two politicians from different countries and with very different political pedigrees who made news this week.

Two politicians from different countries and with very different political pedigrees made news this week. Both spoke difficult truths and reminded us that we shouldn’t use the word “politician” with routine contempt.

The better-known story is the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who was never afraid to make people angry — or to make them laugh. But more on Frank in a moment. Far too little attention has been paid on these shores to a remarkable speech in Berlin on Monday by the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski.

He offered what may be the sound bite of the year: “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”

You don’t have to know much about Polish history (just remember the 1939 Nazi invasion) to realize what an extraordinary statement this was. The center-right Sikorski used the most dramatic language he could find to describe his fears about the collapse of the euro and to issue his “demand” that Germany use its financial might to help the euro zone “survive and ...

Published: Wednesday 30 November 2011
“Republicans plan to devise an alternative way of paying for the payroll tax increase, but they have not yet announced their plans.”

President Barack Obama jets to Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Congress to extend and perhaps expand a payroll tax cut for another year — a move that Senate Republicans suggested Tuesday could happen, at least the extension.

Last year, Obama and Congress agreed to cut the payroll tax paid by workers for Social Security by 2 percentage points, to 4.2 percent. Obama now wants to extend that another year — and even expand it so that workers would pay only 3.1 percent tax on their wages up to $106,800. If Congress doesn't act however, the 2-point tax cut ends Dec. 31, effectively raising taxes on workers.

The tax cut extension is a major part of Obama's $447 billion job creation package, and White House officials said he plans to champion it aggressively in the few weeks that Congress has remaining until it recesses for Christmas.

"If Congress refuses to act — then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time," Obama said last week in Manchester, N.H. "The question they'll have to answer when they get back from Thanksgiving is this: Are they really willing to break their oath to never raise taxes, and raise taxes on the middle class just to play politics?"

The White House has put a tax calculator on its whitehouse.gov webpage, allowing visitors to run the calculations themselves and warning that ...

Published: Thursday 24 November 2011
New legislation would make all diplomatic contact with Iran illegal.

Though most of our history books, as well as contemporary journalism, tend to focus on violence between peoples and nations, the vast majority of conflicts have been settled peacefully.  For centuries, it has been forbidden to “kill the messenger,” thereby enabling diplomacy between governments. Even in cases where countries have not had formal diplomatic relations, quiet negotiations – often initially clandestine and between low-level officials – have prevented cold conflicts from becoming hot ones.  Even war itself has generally not prevented ongoing diplomatic contact, which has often prevented escalation, limited civilian casualties, and made possible a speedier end to the conflict.

With the advent of air travel and instantaneous long-distance communication, the ease with which representatives of adversarial governments can meet has made diplomatic contact more timely and frequent. Meanwhile, advances in the study of negotiation and conflict resolution has made it more effective. Indeed, the improved quantity and quality of diplomatic contact has been a major factor in the dramatic reduction in inter-state wars over the past sixty years.

Unfortunately, Congress is taking up dangerous legislation which appears to be designed to make the risk of war more likely. The bill takes the unprecedented step of effectively preventing any kind of U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran. The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905), sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the right-wing chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, is a far-reaching sanctions bill which contains a provision (Section 601, subsection (c)) which would put into law a restriction whereby

"No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that. . . is an agent, ...

Published: Wednesday 16 November 2011
To determine congressional wealth, the Center looked at the personal financial disclosure lawmakers must file annually.

Half the members of Congress enjoys “1 percent” status as millionaires, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics.

While the economy at home and abroad has limped along since 2008, Congress’ estimated median net worth remains robust—up about 7.6 percent from 2009 and about 13 percent from 2008.

Although members of the Senate boast bigger bank accounts on average over their counterparts in the House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California bucks the trend. His average net worth of $448 million makes him the wealthiest member of the 112th Congress, according to the Center's analysis. Issa owes his fortune in part to his business Directed Electronics, an automobile security company best known for its Viper alarm system. The congressman’s own voice warned potential car thieves who got too close to his products, “Protected by Viper, stand back.”

Rep. 

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
New legislation is looking to cause serious threats between the U.S. and Iran.

Congress is taking up dangerous legislation which appears to be designed to pave the way for war by taking the unprecedented step of effectively preventing any kind of U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran. The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905), sponsored by the right-wing chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, contains a provision (Section 601, subsection (c)) which would put into law a restriction whereby

“No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that. . . is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran;”

Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime. If this measure passes, it will establish a dangerous precedent whereby Congress would likely follow with similar ...

Published: Thursday 3 November 2011
“The partisan schism was evident, as both sides embraced long-held philosophical stands and saw political gain from their refusal to budge.”

President Barack Obama stood Wednesday before an aging Washington bridge and urged a bitterly divided Congress to approve his plan to boost infrastructure spending, but the effort is likely to be blocked Thursday in the Senate.

That would be no surprise to Obama, who since unveiling his $447 billion jobs package two months ago has seen his ideas rejected, largely along party lines. The partisan schism was evident again Wednesday, as both sides embraced long-held philosophical stands and saw political gain from their refusal to budge.

Democrats want higher taxes on millionaires to pay for the infrastructure plan. Republicans don't. Republicans in the House of Representatives have led the way in passing a series of bills to provide private-sector initiatives aimed at creating jobs. Democrats vow to keep pushing the Obama package.

There was little evidence that the two sides are taking serious steps to reach consensus on efforts to bring down the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

Obama, standing next to the Key Bridge, which spans the Potomac River to link northwest Washington with northern Virginia, tried to be both presidential and partisan.

"Infrastructure shouldn't be a partisan issue," he said.

READ FULL POST 13 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 6 October 2011
“In recent months, a blizzard of new data, the hardest of hard numbers, has laid bare the dilapidated condition of the American economy, and particularly of the once-mighty American middle class.”

Food pantries picked over. Incomes drying up. Shelters bursting with the homeless. Job seekers spilling out the doors of employment centers. College grads moving back in with their parents. The angry and disillusioned filling the streets.

Pan your camera from one coast to the other, from city to suburb to farm and back again, and you'll witness scenes like these. They are the legacy of the Great Recession, the Lesser Depression, or whatever you choose to call it.

In recent months, a blizzard of new data, the hardest of hard numbers, has laid bare the dilapidated condition of the American economy, and particularly of the once-mighty American middle class. Each report sparks a flurry of news stories and pundit chatter, but never much reflection on what it all means now that we have just enough distance to look back on the first decade of the twenty-first century and see how Americans fared ...

Published: Tuesday 13 September 2011
The proposed $447 billion bill, which Obama outlined Thursday night in a speech to Congress, would include extended tax cuts for workers and jobless benefits for the out-of-work, a new temporary tax reduction for business and new federal spending to repair infrastructure.

President Barack Obama would pay for his jobs bill primarily by raising $467 billion in taxes on the wealthy over 10 years, the White House said Monday.

Obama included the proposed tax increases in the detailed legislation he sent Monday to Congress, along with a demand that the entire package be passed immediately.

"This is the bill that Congress needs to pass," he said in the White House Rose Garden, waving a copy of the proposed American Jobs Act. "No games. No politics. No delays. I'm sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately."

His request amounted to a legislative and political impossibility.

First, Republicans argue that the first big Obama jobs "stimulus" bill in 2009 was a waste of money, and now they control the House of Representatives. Second, House Republicans say the Congressional Budget Office must analyze the new bill to see how much it would cost and how much economic impact it could have. Third, Obama couldn't get many of the same tax increases he's proposing again through Congress when his Democratic Party controlled both houses. Republicans now have power, and they flatly oppose tax increases on the wealthy.

"I do not think that the president's all or nothing approach is something that is constructive," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. "To say 'pass my bill' 17 times is not, I think, the tone, nor is it the way forward."

The proposed $447 billion bill, which Obama outlined Thursday night in a speech to Congress, would include extended tax cuts for workers and jobless benefits for the out-of-work, a new temporary tax reduction for business and new federal spending to repair infrastructure.

He said then that he'd pay for the one-year package; the White House said Monday that it would all come from tax increases. They'd include:

  • Limiting itemized deductions for ...
Published: Friday 9 September 2011
Obama has proposed, now Republicans will reject. And that’s that.

Barack Obama delivered a credible if uninspired jobs speech Thursday night.

He communicated that the United States cannot meet the challenges of an unemployment crisis with an austerity agenda that owes more to Herbert Hoover than Franklin Roosevelt. But he muddied the message with too much debt and deficit talk.

He signaled to organized labor and progressives that he at least understands the point of a “go big” response to the challenge—even as his instinctive caution erred against going big enough.

In fact, his rhetoric was good deal better than the specifics of his plan.

“The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours,” the president explained, to considerable applause. “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. The question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.”

Obama’s “it’s time to do what’s right” proposal touches at least some of the right bases—even if it is a clumsy circumnavigation. He proposes to spend $450 billion. The $253 billion in tax cuts he wants go mainly to working folks. The $194 billion in new spending is aimed at hiring incentives, infrastructure projects and other job-creating and retaining programs that the moment demands and that polls suggest Americans are more than willing to fund.

Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
“Obama said in a short written statement that he'd decided against making the smog rule stronger because it would put too big a burden on business in a tough economic time.”

President Barack Obama sided with business interests against the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday and ordered a sudden halt to a plan to toughen the Bush administration's limits on smog.

The smog rule was a top priority for the EPA and health and environmental groups because dirty air has been shown to contribute to early death, heart attacks and lung problems, including bronchitis and asthma.

It was one of 10 regulations targeted this week for elimination by House of Representatives Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, but Obama beat him to it.

The EPA tightened the standard for ozone, the main component in smog, during the Bush administration in 2008. However, the agency's scientific advisory board unanimously advised that the new standard wasn't strong enough.

Obama said in a short written statement that he'd decided against making the smog rule stronger because it would put too big a burden on business in a tough economic time. He added that his commitment to protect public health and the environment was "unwavering" and that his administration "will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made."

Minutes after the statement came out, the president's supporters and opponents alike attacked it.

Republicans said scrapping the smog rule was the right thing to do, but they hammered Obama anyway. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the decision "highlights the devastating impact on jobs that has been created by this administration's regulatory overreach."

"It appears that the president's vision has finally cleared and he is realizing that Washington regulations have real effects on Main Street," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. He said the smog decision was "a step in the right direction," but that it was "just the tip of the ...

Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011
Republicans will hold a series of votes in the House of Representatives to repeal what they called 10 "job-destroying regulations” that Obama’s government enacted.

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are launching their next pitched battle over government and the economy, this one over whether the Obama administration’s regulation of American business is killing jobs.

Starting a week after Labor Day, Republicans will hold a series of votes in the House of Representatives to repeal what they called 10 "job-destroying regulations” that Obama’s government enacted. The first one up for a vote: a National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing for building a new factory in South Carolina.

Obama weighed in Tuesday, saying regulations in his first two years in office cost less than those in the final two years of the Bush presidency. Moreover, he said, they were worth it because their benefits in health and lives saved were worth billions more than their costs.

Overall, this evolving clash over regulation promises to be a major part of a months-long fight over the role of the government in the struggling economy. Other elements will include Obama’s speech next week proposing new initiatives to create jobs, and the work of a congressional “super committee” to identify a package of more than $1 trillion in spending cuts and tax increases over a decade to curb deficits.

The Republican effort to stop or repeal government regulations is more likely to help frame the political debate for the 2012 elections than to change the course of government. Once the federal bureaucracy sets rules and regulations, it takes a vote of Congress and the signature of the president to reverse them. The Democrat-controlled Senate is unlikely to agree to repeal any of the 10 targeted rules and regulations. Even if it did, Obama probably would veto the action.

Nonetheless, House committee chairmen have been working since the Republicans took control in January to identify regulations they want to repeal.

"They’ve found many that have tied the ...

Published: Thursday 4 August 2011
We are more than one-third of the way into a “lost decade,” and the shift of the policy debate toward deficit reduction will increase the probability that we will experience the whole thing.

Since the U.S. “Debt Crisis” has been a big international story for the last few weeks, it is worth clarifying what is real and what is not. First, the U.S. government does not have a “debt crisis.” The U.S. government is paying net interest of just 1.4 percent of GDP on its public debt – this is not much by any historical or international comparison. The relatively large annual deficit at present (9.3 percent of GDP) is overwhelmingly the result of the recession and weak recovery. The long-term deficit projections are driven by health care costs in the private sector. These spill over into public spending because the U.S. government pays for almost half of health care spending, at a rate that is twice as high as other developed countries – and rising fast.

There was never any chance that the U.S. would actually default on its debt. The whole “crisis” was manufactured from the beginning, with Republicans in the House of Representatives using a technicality to win unpopular spending cuts that they could not win at the ballot box. It worked: They got an agreement that promises large spending cuts without any tax increases on America’s rich or super-rich, who have vastly increased their share of the national income over the past three decades.

The right won because President ...

Published: Wednesday 3 August 2011
"The president called the weeks-long standoff over raising the debt ceiling "a manufactured crisis" that didn't help a faltering economy."

With the deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling only hours away, President Barack Obama signed a historic deficit-reduction package into law Tuesday that aims to cut trillions of dollars from federal spending while increasing the debt limit immediately.

Obama acted just hours after the Senate passed the bill on a bipartisan 74-26 vote.

The president called the weeks-long standoff over raising the debt ceiling "a manufactured crisis" that didn't help a faltering economy.

"It's pretty likely that the uncertainty surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling for both businesses and consumers has been unsettling and just one more impediment to the full recovery that we need," he said. "And it was something that we could have avoided entirely."

He also made it clear that he'll continue to press for tax increases in the months ahead to help balance the federal budget.

"Since you can't close the deficit with just spending cuts, we'll need a balanced approach where everything's on the table," he said. "Everyone's going to have to chip in. That's only fair. That's the principle I'll be fighting for during the next phase of this process."

During debate on the Senate floor, even supporters were similarly unsatisfied with the result of all the weeks of acrimonious Washington deal making.

"On this matter my conscience is conflicted," said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "If this bill should fail, we will default on our nation's debt ... terrible things will ensue." But he also worried about its trillions of dollars in spending cuts and "all of the consequences on innocent people in America."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was a bit more upbeat. "We've had to settle for less than we wanted, but what we've achieved is in no way ...

Published: Friday 29 July 2011
"As the Republican-controlled House of Representatives struggled to pass its own plan, Obama and the capital looked to the Senate."

President Barack Obama urged Americans Friday to keep the pressure on Congress to compromise, saying Democrats and Republicans are not that far part on proposals to avert a debt crisis next week.

"Keep it up," Obama said in nationally televised remarks from the White House. " Let your members of congress know…Keep the pressure on Washington and we can get past this."

As the Republican-controlled House of Representatives struggled to pass its own plan, Obama and the capital looked to the Senate.

Obama said proposals from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., each would avert the crisis expected Tuesday when the government runs out of authority to borrow to pay bills already in the pipeline.

"This is not a situation where the two parties are miles apart," Obama said. "There are plenty of ways out of this mess. But we are almost out of time."

Senate Democrats Friday plan to begin consideration of their plan to cut federal deficits by $2.2 trillion and raised the debt limit through the end of 2012—as House of Representatives Republicans remained deadlocked over how to proceed with their own proposal.

As the fractured House GOP met behind closed doors Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he will move ahead with his plan—even though it’s unlikely to draw many, if any, Republican votes.

“The deadline will not move,” he said of the deadline for raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Unless that ceiling is raised by Tuesday, the government will default, triggering an economic panic and probably throwing the nation back into recession.

“We have hours, I repeat, hours, to act,” said Reid, speaking on the Senate floor as he opened the Senate for business Friday. “That’s why, by the end of the day, I must take action on the ...

Published: Wednesday 27 July 2011
"The non-partisan CBO determined that Boehner's plan would cut spending by $850 billion over the next decade, less than the $1.2 trillion promised in the bill."

House Speaker John Boehner was rewriting his plan to cut federal spending and raise the debt ceiling Tuesday night after the Congressional Budget Office revealed that his bill wouldn't cut as much spending as he'd promised it would.

The non-partisan CBO determined that Boehner's plan would cut spending by $850 billion over the next decade, less than the $1.2 trillion promised in the bill. CBO's scoring came on the eve of a vote in the House of Representatives on Boehner's plan, which was already struggling to gain enough votes among Republican members.

"CBO estimates that the legislation would reduce budget deficits by about $850 billion between 2012 and 2021 relative to CBO's March 2011 baseline," the CBO wrote in a letter to Boehner Tuesday.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said the speaker is reworking his plan. It was undetermined when a vote on the revamped plan will occur.

"We're here to change Washington — no more smoke and mirrors, no more `phantom cuts,'" Steel said. "We promised that we will cut spending more than we increase the debt limit — with no tax hikes — and we will keep that promise. As we speak, congressional staff are looking at options to re-write the legislation to meet our pledge."

Before Boehner's setback, congressional Democrats and Republicans appear headed for a clash Wednesday over dueling plans to cut spending and raise the federal debt ceiling, while the head of the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday of dire consequences for the world economy if lawmakers fail to act by the Aug. 2 default deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forged ahead his own plan, which could come up for a votes as early as Thursday.

"We're in a stalemate," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. "I mean, this is the problem we have, is that we need Congress to produce something that ...

Published: Tuesday 26 July 2011
"President Barack Obama warned the nation Monday night that the partisan impasse risks "sparking a deep economic crisis, this one caused almost entirely by Washington."

With the deadline for raising the nation's debt limit and prospects for financial-market panic now a week away, an impatient, frustrated President Barack Obama warned the nation Monday night that the partisan impasse risks "sparking a deep economic crisis, this one caused almost entirely by Washington."

But House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, presenting the case for the Republicans, countered that "the solution to this crisis is not that complicated. If you're spending more money than you're taking in, you need to spend less of it."

Obama and the Democrats should just accept the massive spending cut package pushed by the GOP, Boehner said — but Obama, he charged, "wants a blank check today."

Obama's 15-minute nationally televised address capped a day when Senate Democrats' and House Republicans' positions hardened, as each unveiled deficit-cutting plans Monday that showed the two sides remain sharply divided.

The key conflict dividing the new Republican and Democratic congressional plans involved the length of any new debt-limit increase. Republicans in the House of Representatives want to increase it in two stages, the first a short-term stopgap that would last through early next year. Democrats want a new ceiling that will last through the 2012 elections.

Obama took the unusual step of getting specific in criticizing the House GOP plan offered earlier Monday by Boehner.

"A six-month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates that all Americans would have to pay as a result," Obama said. "We know what we have to do to reduce our deficits; there's no point in putting the economy at risk by kicking the can further down the road."

Obama said he was still confident that an accord could be reached, saying, "Republican leaders and I have found common ground before." ...

Published: Tuesday 5 July 2011
House of Representatives: "We're deeply unhappy about the U.S. mission in Libya."

The House of Representatives has sent the White House a strong message: We're deeply unhappy about the U.S. mission in Libya. But the Senate has signaled that it could send a very different message this week: that it's willing to authorize the operation for a year. The two chambers of Congress are engaged in a rare national security-policy split, one largely unseen since they divided over how to wage the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago. Experts are surprised that this kind of schism doesn't occur more often, because most of the reasons behind the split have been around since the nation's founding. House members have to run every two years in small districts, so they must stay close to public opinion. Senators face voters only every six years in whole states; that lets them be more independent. Then, too, senators are more immersed in foreign policy, since they alone have to advise and consent on treaties, ambassadorships and other presidential appointments. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee long has been a destination for lawmakers with presidential ambitions, trying to establish credibility on foreign policy matters. It has more influence than its House counterpart. There's also a 2011-vintage factor: Eighty-seven House Republicans are freshmen, elected on a vow to shrink government dramatically. "Their (the freshman Republicans') view about Libya has got to do with how the government has overextended itself," said Michael Franc, who was a top aide to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. The House voted twice June 24 on Libya. It rejected, 295-123, the one-year authorization, with 70 Democrats and 225 Republicans voting no. However, it defeated a bid to cut off funding for all operations except in very limited circumstances. Four days later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-5 to allow one more year. Four Republicans joined 10 Democrats in approving the measure, which the full Senate is expected to ...

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