Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In one of the most historic civil rights votes ever, the U.S. Senate has voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. This policy forbids recruiters from asking if a person is gay, and the recruited may not admit to it, otherwise they will be discharged. The bill is to be signed next week, but it will take several months to implement, as there has to be a certification that the troops fighting ability will not be harmed, as well as a two month waiting period. The bill passed 65 to 31, with the support of eight Republicans. They are: Lisa Murkowski, Scott Brown, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, George Voinovich, Mark Kirk, Richard Burr, and John Ensign. This is one of the greatest days in the history of these United States.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Presidental Tax Cut deal

The President has just proven that not only is he not "Change we can believe," he's also a political whore. He's struck a deal with the Republicans to extend tax cuts to all Americans, including the wealthy, but the Democratic Party is in open revolt to the idea. No kidding! After he gets done campaigning on ending that crap, he wants to turn around and approve it all. He flip flops more than John "Voted for funding before against it" Kerry. The deal has payroll cuts that would cut the Social Security tax rate by 2 percent. (So why are politicians complaining about the lack of funding for it?) Republicans, in exchange, will renew jobless benefits for 13 more months without paying. So, if the two year extension doesn't bankrupt us first, then we will have this debate in 2012, and he better not say the words "End Bush Tax Cuts." The president has portrayed it as a way to get middle class benefits while, of course, blaming Republicans. The truth is, at this point, the President is just enabling the Republicans.  He has  proven, once again, that the Democratic Party of the United States has no spine, that it isn't willing to fight for what it believes, much less what's right. If the President is so concerned with the deficit, if the Republicans are so concerned, then why is this going through?  It's almost as big as the Stimulus package, which wasn't paid for either. Among the Democratic Party's concerns: Senator Kyl's renewing of the estate tax at 35 percent, with the first 5 million dollars safely exempted. Businesses can write off all of next year's investments as business expense, and therefore not pay taxes on them. Meantime, House Democrats are very concerned about this deal, as are the Democrats of the Senate, and they should be. They have spent how long saying they would end the high end tax cuts? Thankfully, there is at least one Republican who is willing to vote against this monstrosity that, quite frankly, the President created in his capitulation to the  Republicans. So what happens now? Well, if you think like the CBO, and look to future effects, then you will find that the deficit is about to see another massive increase. Over ten years, the United States Treasury will lose 4 trillion dollars. It's honestly a wonder that the Chinese government doesn't own us yet. So if you are a sane individual, please, call and/or write your congressperson and ask them to vote against this plan.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

White House's Korea Deal

As of Friday night, the U.S. government has announced a free trade agreement between us and South Korea. Hey, jobs may increase now! Apparently, the hold was in place over cars, but a deal has been reached on that front. Next, Congress has to clear it, which will probably happen. According to the President, this means an increase in American exports, by up to 11 billion, as well as support for 70,000 jobs. No surprise, the AFL-CIO will oppose it, but they oppose every free trade deal. Here's the deal, outlined by

Under the original deal, U.S. import taxes would have disappeared immediately for most Korean autos, but the new pact keeps that 2.5 percent tax in place for four years before phasing out in the fifth year.
Likewise, the original plan to immediately start phasing out America’s 25 percent import tariff on small trucks was scrapped. That hefty tariff, which deters foreign competition for U.S. truck makers such as Ford Motor Co., will remain in place for seven years, and then be eliminated over the next three years.
“These are amazing protections for the auto industry,” said one business lobbyist who favors the deal. “This is seven years that Ford won’t have to deal with truck imports from Korea. That is real money.”
Korea also made auto trade concessions, agreeing to reduce its import tariff from 8 percent to 4 percent immediately and then eliminate it in five years.
Korean auto companies have seen their auto exports to the United States soar in the last decade to nearly 500,000 in 2009, while U.S exports to Korea remain less than 10,000 a year. Ford and other U.S. auto makers have complained that Korea uses high taxes, plus arbitrary and discriminatory environmental and safety standards to lock out imports.
Under the new agreement, 25,000 American-made autos a year will be admitted without having to meet Korean rules, and the changes to those rules will be phased in slowly and subject to more transparency.

Meantime, Ford is hesitatingly endorsing the deal. It might do some good. Now, if there had only been rules about worker's safety, and health.

Limiting the bake sale

Yes, you read that right. The most well known way of school fundraising may soon dry up, as a child nutrition bill that has made it to the president would give our government the ability to limit the number of bake sales. Because everyone knows that's a significant factor in obesity. Not really, but that's what some people seem to think. Never mind healthy food, never mind advocating for having kids outside, get rid of the evil bake sale! And the language is so unclear that, in theory, bake sales could be banned. Thankfully, that's not going to be done. While the bill does have good things, such as providing more healthy meals for students, including dinner, this fundraiser thing is just ridiculous.

DADT Repeal

How many of you have gay friends or relatives? Do they serve in the military? If so, then they probably shouldn't hold their breath about getting Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed. This is the last month to get it done, the White House is starting to focus on other things. Now just think, if they hadn't challenged the court's appeal, it would've been overturned, because it was found unconstitutional. People on the Hill say there are two possibilities. The first is that enough Republicans cross over, thereby bringing cloture, or an end to debate, causing an immediate vote on the topic. Another possibility floating is that if, by some chance, the bill fails, due to the lack of time allowed on GOP amendments, if they are even allowed, then a vote on DADT by itself may be done, even though it isn't expected to pass. Things are not helped by the fact that two more military leaders have come out saying that they would not pass a repeal right now, but they would implement it if it did pass. The head of the Army and Marines have also said that they do not think recruitment would drop, or that many soldiers would resign. Obviously, John McCain has seized on this news like a bulldog that got a hold of the steak, saying that all the different opinions the military leaders have is a sign that more debate is needed, as well as saying that he and 41 others do not back repeal while there is still high unemployment and high deficits. Not that these things have stopped the White House from saying that the repeal is still on the table. All right, so if this is so important, why don't you muscle the Senate personally, Mr. President? Fear of losing the base and the moderates? Most likely. As much as I would like to see DADT repealed, I fear that it will not be. And it may be a long time before another chance comes up.

Kerry V. Romney

John Kerry has launched a jab at Mitt Romney, saying the former Presidential candidate's stance on a possible nuclear treaty with Russia was ill-informed, among other things. Romney has said in an op-ed that START would undermine the United States security by limiting our missile defense options. Kerry didn't take that sitting down. On the same down, he made a response that pointed to his committee's hearings. By the way, the criticisms of Mr. Romney are on both sides of the aisle, with Republican Dick Lugar making a statement criticizing Mr. Romney's stance, going so far as to offer rebuttals to Mr. Romney's comments.

Menendez's Dramatics

The head of the DSCC has made a comment that, frankly, comes out of nowhere. Robert Menendez has said that negotiating with Republicans over the tax deal is like negotiating with terrorists. What? Meantime, Claire McCaskell has said that if the wealthy tax breaks are passed, Americans might have to take up pitchforks. Only if it's the end of the world. Which, given how politicians spend, may yet occur. Obviously, Mr. Menendez's aides have said that he was not comparing Republicans to terrorists. Really, do they think anyone believes that? He was going to be replaced before this though, so it really doesn't matter too much.

Welcome to Greece, everybody!

Debt wise, that is, as well as a strong plan to make cuts. Today, the President's debt commettiee had a plan, but it didn't get the votes it needed to be considered by Congress. It was, unbelieveably in today's circumstances, bipartisan. While it did not get the nessecery 14 votes, it did get an 11-7 majority. The plan was made of tax increases, such as canning the child tax credit. Also up for consideration were entitlement cuts, and raising retirement age past 65. Really, raise the retirement age? Because the senior citizens don't work hard enough, obviously. The goal of the bill was to cut 4 trillion dollars off of the debt. However, there is a potential bright spot: Obama is considering putting some ideas from this bill into his 2012 budget, and has called for a two year freeze in federal worker's pay, while the debt comission's bill called for three years. One of the people against the plan was Andy Stern, former president of Service and Employees International Union, which covers people in health care, public service, and property service. He did have a proposel of his own, which called for even higher taxes and shifting the governments spending over to infrastructure. House Republican say they have a plan (probably tax cuts), but they have yet to release it. Both parties are claiming to look into tax reform. Let's see if that goes anywhere. (Hint: It won't.) Meantime, John Boehner has yet to say what he thinks about the bill. His exact words were that the bill "provided a sobering look" at the choices facing the country, as well as urging "an adult conversation." Yeah, sure. Eric Cantor, the number two, has not made an announcement yet either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Economy resputtering?

Anyone who expected good news over the latest jobs reports were sorely disappointed today. The reports, which were expected to show gains of around 150,000, actually showed gains of around 40,000. Which means that unemployment went from 9.6 to 9.8 percent. Of course, economic advisors are saying that as these reports are volitile, plus the fact they can be revised,  people should not put too much stock into them, which, to me, is kind of an odd attitude to take, as these reports are probably the only things that inspire confidence in the markets. There are several other details that people say should be included, such as: there's an increase in holiday retail, and home sales are up. The only good thing about this is the fact that it may become easier to pass unemployment benefits, which are desperately needed at the moment. Republicans, of course, lost no time in blaming Obama's policies, saying that they are discourging businesses to invest. Like they were with the tax cuts theygot. Oh wait, they weren't. Here's my message to the GOP: the tax cuts for the rich did nothing. We cannot afford to leave them in place. Get rid of them. To the Democrats: We need the rich to start paying taxes, but we also need to find areas to cut spending. Then, maybe the confidence will return, and the economy will grow again.

Please call your congressperson, and tell them that the tax cuts for the wealthy need to be paired with spending cuts. It's the only way to show that the government is serious about lowering the deficit.