Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Budget: Almost $1 Trillion in New Taxes Over Next 10 yrs, Starting 2011

From Jake Tapper of ABC
February 26, 2009 12:00 PM

President Obama's budget proposes $989 billion in new taxes over the course of the next 10 years, starting fiscal year 2011, most of which are tax increases on individuals.

1) On people making more than $250,000.

$338 billion - Bush tax cuts expire
$179 billlion - eliminate itemized deduction
$118 billion - capital gains tax hike

Total: $636 billion/10 years

2) Businesses:

$17 billion - Reinstate Superfund taxes
$24 billion - tax carried-interest as income
$5 billion - codify "economic substance doctrine"
$61 billion - repeal LIFO
$210 billion - international enforcement, reform deferral, other tax reform
$4 billion - information reporting for rental payments
$5.3 billion - excise tax on Gulf of Mexico oil and gas
$3.4 billion - repeal expensing of tangible drilling costs
$62 million - repeal deduction for tertiary injectants
$49 million - repeal passive loss exception for working interests in oil and natural gas properties
$13 billion - repeal manufacturing tax deduction for oil and natural gas companies
$1 billion - increase to 7 years geological and geophysical amortization period for independent producers
$882 million - eliminate advanced earned income tax credit

Total: $353 billion/10 years

-- jpt

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Summit Breakouts: Social Security

The pool report by Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post on the Fiscal Responsibility Summit's breakout session on Social Security follows:

The session was held in room 350 of EEOB, a large conference room in which participants sat around a rectangular table. At the head of the table, with an American flag on each side of them, were the two administration officials who led this breakout: Lawrence Summers, director of the WH's National Economic Council, and Gene Sperling, counselor for domestic policy at Treasury. An ideological eclectic mix of 24 guests participated (a partial list follows), including senators and House members, David Walker (former head of the GAO), representatives of labor and business, and leaders of advocacy groups that work on entitlement reform.

No major news, but Summers and Sperling each conveyed a sense that the administration will try to move on health care before Social Security, although SS will come soon after.

Sperling said in his opening remarks that "Social Security does provide the potential for something that could be done, regardless of whether it is this year or next year. It is a conversation that has gone on this town, often not successfully."

But he said the president believes "there is a new politics out there." In his closing remarks, Sperling said "This is not about getting a commission. It is finding a process of trust, where Democrats and Republicans can come together and present something together, so it is not seen simply as an invitation to partisan attack...Holding hands and jumping together."

Summers said that health care has "overwhelming importance" in achieving "longterm budget control." He said: "But Social Security is also crucial to the nation's longterm fiscal health, and Social Security is our most important government program."

He essentially said - and this is paraphrase here -- that the downturn of the financial markets had diminished the political appetite for converting part of SS to private retirement accounts. Here is a quote: In light of "the events in the market the last couple years, the sense of the need for government to take a core public responsibility for Social Security. . .has been strengthened, at least in many people's minds. Though not perhaps all minds."

Sperling, near the session's end, advocated a change to Social Security that he had touted when he worked as an economics adviser in the Clinton White House: an "add-on" to Social Security, in which workers could set aside money in private accounts beyond their payroll taxes that go into the program itself. He said that politically, that idea - called USA Accounts in the Clinton days - should not be part of Social Security reform itself. But he said, "it doesn't mean it couldn't be part of a package."

Both Summers and Sperling said there would not be consensus in today's session about how to fix the program. They also said the public was more receptive to the government making hard decisions necessary to keep SS from running out of money in the long run, because Americans are anxious about their private retirement savings and the value of their houses.

Sperling said: "I think there may be a lot more openness than we thought in the past for people to have an honest discussion about the shared sacrifice necessary to have Social Security solvency. That this would be a sure thing they could count on, and they could count on for the next 50 to 75 years."

At the end, Sperling also tried to cut through disagreement over whether the program was in a state of crisis. "I really hate the whole argument about, is this a crisis or is this not a crisis? Why do we not want to preempt a crisis. Why do we not want to do something early? It is a shame on our political system that there has never been entitlement reform without a gun to our head. . .Wouldn't it be a tremendous confidence-building thing to act early and smart?"

Those are the highlights from the administration. By far, most of the session, which lasted slightly less than two hours, was devoted to comments from around the table.

Two Republicans, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Sen. Lindsey Graham said they were willing to work with the administration, without saying they supported any specific ideas the WH might propose. Graham said: "To this new administration, if you will push this and make it a priority, I will do everything I can to make you successful. . .I will do everything I can to make sure that demagoguery does not succeed."

Boehner said the government should consider cutting or eliminating SS benefits for older Americans with high retirement incomes. "Why don't we just admit we are broke? If you have $150,000 in non-Social Security retirement income, thanks for your contributions but phase out the benefits or eliminate them. . .I don't have any problem looking people in the eye and saying, 'Thank you for your contributions, but for the good of the country, your benefits are gone.' " He also said increases in SS payments should be pegged to the Consumer Price Index, not wage inflation. And he said "we need to get serious about raising the retirement age."

David Walker, former chief of the GAO, also said the retirement age should increase. "One think that I've heard some controversy about, the retirement age - I know it's difficult, but the simple fact of the matter is, government policy needs to encourage what is in the collective best interest of the country and what is in the collective best interest of all. Government policy needs to encourage people to work longer."

Here are most, if not all, of the participants, in order in which they spoke:
David Walker - former head of GAO.
Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Steny Hoyer
Rep. John Boehner
Maya MacGuinneas, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
Peter Peterson, Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women's Policy
John Sweeney - AFL-CIO
Roger Ferguson - TIAA-CREF
Randi Weingarten - American Federation of Teachers
Rep. John Tanner
Barbara Kennelly - National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
Rep. Eric Cantor
Marty Ford - Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
Susan Eckerly - NFIB
Ed Coyle - Alliance for Retired Americans
Kevin Hassitt - American Enterprise Institute

from the Washington Post

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pampering The Prisoners

Baghdad Central Prison, previously known as Abu Ghraib, was reopened today as a five-star hotel and resort for terrorists and criminals. The Iraqi government obviously feels that the best method to discourage crime is to reward those who are convicted of it by providing "greenhouses, computer chatroom, a playground, and a sewing room." With such luxuries being served, how can one afford NOT to enter into the obviously profitable and highly prestigious business of terror?

I remark on this laughable treatment of terrorists to highlight the confused mentality the world seems to have adopted towards those who wish to cause us harm; instead of punishing them with the utmost severity, the world has come to believe that it is our duty to pity them. Imagine for a moment that you are risking your life for a cause you obviously believe very deeply in. The ultimate sacrifice for this cause is your life and the honor that will be bestowed upon you after death is something you can only dream of. The enemy against whom you fight is heavily armed and exceedingly wealthy. They have sought you out and persecuted your people for years, and despite your many attempts they continue to persist in their nonreligious ways. Now, they have managed to catch you; you who have spent your entire life trying to kill these people for mocking your god.

It is reasonable that the terrorist, being caught and convicted, should expect to be treated with the utmost harshness, perhaps even being punished by being put to death. However, instead of even slapping these people on the wrist, the Iraqi government has determined to make fools and laughing-stocks out of themselves by investing over $1 million in providing lofty and comfortable accommodations for monsters, murderers and the scum of the earth.

The terrorist is not feeling punished and the comfortable conditions will not serve to rehabilitate any of those detained, for these are not ordinary criminals convicted of robbery or grand-theft auto. No, these prisoners are radical fundamentalists who believe in their cause enough to die for it. Providing them with five-star conditions merely eases the difficulty of what should be made an impossible task - the killing and harming of innocent civilians.

"We turned it into something like a resort, not a prison."
- Mohammed al-Zeidi, director of the Iraqi Rehabilitation Department

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Backing Away From Burris

DURBIN STATEMENT ON SENATOR ROLAND BURRIS

"When we met with Roland Burris in January, we made it clear that in order for him to be seated in the U.S. Senate he needed to meet two requirements - first, that he submit the proper paperwork certifying his appointment, and second, that he appear before the General Assembly's Impeachment Committee to testify openly, honestly and completely about the nature of his relationship with the former governor, his associates and the circumstances surrounding this appointment."

"We asked him to testify in the impeachment proceedings, not to embarrass Roland Burris, but to give him an opportunity to clear the air regarding this appointment from a tainted governor. Our hope was that he would use that opportunity to assure the people of Illinois and the other members of the United States Senate that he was not involved in any wrongdoing."

"Now the accuracy and completeness of his testimony and affidavits have been called into serious question. Every day there are more and more revelations about contacts with Blagojevich advisors, efforts at fundraising and omissions from his list of lobbying clients. This was not the full disclosure under oath that we asked for."

"These news reports and the public statements by Roland Burris himself are troubling and raise serious questions which need to be looked at very carefully."

"The State's Attorney in Sangamon County is reviewing the affidavit and other materials associated with Senator Burris' testimony to see if criminal charges are warranted and the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation into this matter."

"This is the appropriate course of action and I await the outcome of those investigations. The people of Illinois deserve nothing less."

John Adams on Religion

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

Do We Get To Read It???

video

Day of the Headless Chickens

The Democrats have successfully passed a bill that, as one House member has commented will "buy doorbells and doorknobs, but won't stimulate the economy." The DNC has supported this bill because they love spending money not theirs and they are eager to be able to exert their new-found control over the American people. Instead of acting rationally and responsibly, seeking areas where a stimulus package of such great costs could have actually helped people and small businesses throughout America, the Democrats pushed for hasty action. The final version of the bill, passed today 246-183, was not available for review until late last night, leaving virtually all representatives little or no tie to review the expanded bill.

As I am writing this, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) is arguing that the package does not address the issues in the economy that really needed to be addressed, and instead throws money into needless, wasteful projects. Being only one of 7 Democrats to vote against the bill, I am sure Mr. DeFazio is enduring much ridicule from his side of the aisle for not voting along the party line.

Anyway, my point is that the Democrats are in such a rush to act that they are not taking sufficient time to think. They are padding their own pockets and throwing money around as though it is water. Well, I don't think the ruling party realizes that there is a draught and during a draught you cannot simply go to your neighbors' garden hoses, fill up your swimming pool and tell them that this pool will provide more water for everyone. No one has money to spare and no one can afford to fill the Democratic pool. Telling the American commuity that they must come together to help each other out is nice, but that's not what is happening here. The Democrats are funding their pet projects, and their uncaring attitude towards the American people should spark an outcry from every single one of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Funny

The last line is the best... just in case you don't know who Lincoln is. :)

Record price for Lincoln speech on 200th birthday

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A speech delivered by President Abraham Lincoln two days after his 1864 presidential election victory was sold for a record $3.44 million on Thursday, the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The price paid by an undisclosed buyer set a new auction record for a Lincoln manuscript, auction house Christie's said in a statement.

The handwritten four-page speech had a pre-sale estimated value of $3 million to $4 million.

"Today's auction is a testimony to Americans' and the world's abiding interest in and reverence for President Abraham Lincoln," a Christie's statement said.

The auction house said the price of $3,442,500 was not only an auction record for a Lincoln document but also for any American historical document.

In the letter, Lincoln called upon his fellow Americans to "re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country."

Lincoln successfully led the country through the Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery.

(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Alan Elsner)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crossing the Line

While the Obama Administration fights for the speedy approval of a multi-billion dollar pork- er.. excuse me, stimulus - package, the Great Deciders in the White House are simultaneously arguing that offshore drilling should be put on hold until Americans can have more time to comment on it.  Being heralded as a fresh face - a relief from politics as usual - was Obama's greatest claim to fame.  As a Republican, I was somewhat dubious, or rather I was downright skeptical, of any politician's ability to bring true change, but I was especially worried about Obama because the media, as we have seen and will continue to see, has already placed him on a podium of perfection, untried and untested.

To put some much faith in one man and one institution seems naive at best and destructive at worst.  The President is entrusted with the task of protecting the nation and ensuring the safety of the American people.  President Obama seems not to understand his task and has not realized the divide between the legislative and executive branches of the government.  Where one (Congress) is constitutionally instructed to oversee the federal monies (taxes, borrowing, etc.), the other (President) is commanded to ensure security and safety.  For this the Executive must present a strong face, and a powerful persona to the world and to the people.  He should not be legislating from the Oval Office, nor should he be spending such an enormous amount of time padding the pockets of his party members.

As cynical as it sounds, the truth is that the current government is slowly becoming one body.  The current president is capable of exerting too much power due partially to the celebrity status bestowed upon the first family and the resulting fear many congresspeople now have in going against the president, but also because the American people have allowed the government to function with little or no oversight.  We have allowed or representatives to tell us what is best for us, yet we have not truly investigated whether the decisions really are.  While it is nearly impossible for the majority of us to actually keep tabs on all legislation begin discussed, we can show our elected officials that we care.  Instead of simply following the media's garbled translation we must attempt to become more knowledgeable of the bills and proposals being made by our government.  If we can show our leaders that we do care and we are paying attention, perhaps they will be more hesitant to infuse what can be helpful and necessary bills with earmarks, and they will think twice before reducing the American people to a "chattering class."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Governmnet Knows Best

The new stimulus bill, passed by a 61-37 vote in the Senate, does not as many of us have already known and feared, contain provisions solely necessary for the repair of the economy. One large, shocking, and seemingly ignored provision provides for the creation of new and far-reaching health care reform. This reform calls for the uniform conformity of every licensed doctor to a set of government provided rules and standards.

The doctor, under the new bill would not only have to be concerned about misdiagnosing the patient, but he or she (the doctor) will also have to ensure that all treatment, procedures, and diagnosis conform with a bureaucratic code of medicine. Fearing a fine or even the revocation of their license, doctors will become less likely to provide swift and accurate medical attention, and less, not more, lives will be saved.

I recently visited the doctor, and before being allowed in, the receptionist made me sign a form that, amongst other things, relieved the doctor of liability because "medicine is not a perfect science." As a patient, it is not very comforting to be made to sign away responsibility, however I fully understand the need for such documents. With every passing day, America becomes a more litigious nation, and above all a nation of irresponsibility on an individual level.

Apparently, the Democratic party, and the current administration does not have faith in the people's ability to decide right from wrong on their own. The idea of having every single doctor conform to a vague list of what a group of politicians feel is correct is the epitome of legislative over-zealousness.

The American public as a whole is capable of making decisions for itself. People in general are intelligent and most importantly, what is right for one person is not necessarily going to be right for another. It is the typical example of the student who having gained much "book wisdom" feels as though he is prepared to conquer the world, only to awake to the harsh reality that the world and it multiple complexities cannot truly be reduced to chapters and paragraphs.

Through this leviathan of a bill, the Obama administration and its lapdogs in Congress have told America and the world that an age of independence is over; it is time to hearken an era of government oversight and control. No longer will you or I have to concern ourselves over our own medicine, money, or mind; the beneficent Obama administration will care for it all. Questioning the decisions of the Administration is now "partisan" and only those who wish to sow the seeds of strife and "Washington politics" will think for themselves. During his first 100 days as President, Mr. Obama does not have many results to show. Yes, he has agreed to treat terrorist nations as though they are not, and yes he has presented America as a weak nation. It is true too, that he has asked Congress to spend enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars while not being entirely forthright about its application. We all wait with baited breath for the next of what I am sure will be many brilliant ideas from this harbinger of hope and commissioner of change. (Sorry, I'm in some kind of "alliteration mood.")