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Nightmare Before Christmas

December 16, 2010

The lame duck Congress has now become the nightmare before christmas (my apologies to Tim Burton).  With less than a month before the new Congress takes the oath, the lame duck Congress is pushing multiple pieces of legislation that will have a devastating effect on our country.  Let’s go one by one:

1. Tax Cut Deal – Earlier, I had been supportive of the tax cut extension deal.  However, since its inception, it has been loaded up with a ton of pork barrel spending.  It also revitalizes the death tax.  A large reason why people save money is to be able to help their families and pass it along to their loved ones after they pass.  The government has no business taxing their wealth as they earn, and again after they simply will it to others.  The solution is to wait till the next Congress where they can hopefully agree to a retroactive tax extension without all the pork and hidden tax raises like the death tax.

2.  Omnibus – The Omnibus spending bill is a 1.1 Trillion dollar disaster of pork barrel spending, about 6,000 pet projects in all.  We simply don’t have money for all this stuff.  Especially when this “stuff” is pig waste management.  No one has read it, no one knows what’s in it.  With our economic and national debt problems, are we really going to dig ourselves another $1.1T deeper into this hole?

3.  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – I agree with John McCain when he says we need to listen to our military commanders on this one.  Every top military commander, except the Navy commander, has stated it would be a mistake to repeal this legislation.  They know best, let’s heed their words.  Contrary to some people’s misunderstanding that I have heard recently, if you are gay you can serve in the military, just don’t be vocal about your sexual persuasion.  We don’t ask straight people to be vocal about their straightness, why should be expect that from homosexual people.  Recent polling has shown that most gay people currently serving wouldn’t be vocal about their preference even if DADT is repealed.  Also, it would take building another set of infrastructure for openly gay people: barracks, other training facilities, etc.  The system is currently working, top commanders say its working.  Everyone is free to serve just as they are.  There is no reason to be wasting time in this session on this issue.

4.  DREAM Act – I understand the need for a system to allow illegals to come out of the shadows through a temporary worker program, or if they wish, to get at the back of the line to become citizens.  This is especially true for those who came here illegally as children under the wing of their parents.  I like the idea of helping these kids if they wish to serve in the armed services. But that should only be extended to those kids currently here.  We should secure the border first, which would severely limit illegal immigration and help us make sure that new people coming into this country do not take advantage of this policy.  Help them learn English, gain experience as a soldier, and learn to love this country and know its history.  This will help them in the future to start the process of becoming a citizen if they would like.  But saying that we are going to help them pay for tuition at a state school?  That is wrong.  Not to mention the continued budget issues with this idea, why are we incentivizing coming here illegally?  This sends a message to parents – if you want your kids to have a college education, come here illegally, and we will help you pay for it.  With so many American parents struggling to pay tuition for their own kids, why should we do this for illegal aliens?  This is wrong, and we should not allow any illegal alien to cut in line on the pathway to citizenship.

This is what we face during these few short days before the end of this lame duck session.  Write your representatives and let them know that this is unacceptable.

Tax Cut Deal in Jeopardy

December 9, 2010

The President has been touting a compromise, however, a tax cut deal seems to be in jeopardy as time moves on.  Many Democrats have been vocal about their opposition of keeping tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  However, now some conservative Republicans (Jim Demint) have voiced their own opposition because of the deficit spending involved in extending unemployment benefits.

Earlier today, Sen. Jim Demint stated on the Hugh Hewitt radio program, that he would help filibuster, and even if it past a cloture vote, would ultimately vote against the tax cut deal.  His reasoning being that he promised not to vote for more deficit spending.  I think that many conservatives and Republicans, even Tea Party folks, completely agree that deficit spending is one of America’s largest problems right now, and it needs to be avoided like the plague.  With that being said, from the unemployment numbers we are seeing among other economic factors, our economy is still on the brink of disaster.  Form my previous post, I believe that one of the most important things that need to be done to help the economy grow, is to extend these tax cuts (if not make them permanent) to give some stability and help businesses plan for new hires.  Therefore, I think that it is vital to pass this deal, despite the spending involved in extending unemployment benefits.

Again, no one wants to see more deficit spending right now.  However, the best way to solve our deficit problem is to grow our economy and cut spending.  In my opinion, the trade off is well worth the price. Honestly, I think this is the best we can do right now with so many liberals still in the Congress, and I did not think we would even see tax cut extension for those over $250k in the first place.  Personally, I would like to see unemployment benefits taken out, and a permanent extension of the tax cuts.  But people and businesses are hurting.  People need to know what their tax liability will be, and the clock is ticking.  No one wants to see their taxes instantly rise, as the ball in Times Square falls.

So here’s my game plan:

1. Pass the bill as is.

2.  In January, when more conservatives take office, work quickly for spending cuts to pay for the benefit extension. Obama may veto these cuts, but force him to do this.  Republicans control the House in January, they then control the budget.  (Beohner is already planning this)

3.  Attempt to pass a bill to make the tax cuts permanent.  Most Americans want this and don’t buy into the class warfare offered by most liberals.  After all, how does the rich receiving a tax cut too hurt people who earn less?  The President may veto it, given it passes the Senate, but force him to do so.

Hopefully, these tax cuts will have the desired effect: help stabilize the economy and help it grow.  With proper growth of the economy from these tax cuts, which will increase the tax base, these tax cuts will pay for the unemployment benefits and then some.  Cutting taxes and stabilizing our economy should be priority number one.  It starts with passing this bill, and then cutting spending like crazy!

RealClearPolitics – Video – Sherrod Brown: Tax Cuts Don’t Create Jobs, Unemployment Benefits Do

December 2, 2010

RealClearPolitics – Video – Sherrod Brown: Tax Cuts Don’t Create Jobs, Unemployment Benefits Do.

A video to accompany my last post to demonstrate the class warfare rhetoric that hurts the process of extending the tax cuts.  These comments disrupt the bipartisan talks toward a compromise or full extension.

“It’s extending unemployment benefits that creates economic activity that creates jobs, not giving a millionaire an extra ten or twenty or thirty k in tax cuts they they likely won’t spend” – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  That’s a shocking statement that is purely political, and I think most people, whether your for increasing unemployment benefits or not, understand that it economically just isn’t true.

The Real Point of Tax Cut Extension

December 2, 2010

Most pundits in the media today seem to be missing the real point of tax cut extension.  It seems that even some of our elected leaders are missing the same point.  Over the last few weeks, what I’ve heard from most political pundits are arguments about who spends the most money, how the rich are going to spend money anyway regardless of tax cuts, and why the middle class needs a tax cut more than anyone else.  However, I have heard very little about the real point of tax cut extension: businesses and investors need to know what their tax liability will be in order to start growing, hiring, and investing.

Certainly other aspects of tax cuts are important to leaving more money in people’s pockets and growing the economy.  However, hiring new workers and growing businesses relies on more than people just spending more money.  In order for businesses to open a new branch, expand their manufacturing, hire an employee, or take on any other type of long-term expenditure, they need to know how much money they will have available to do so.  Enter tax policy.  Too many of our elected officials are just talking about extending tax cuts to those who will spend it.  This misses the point.

President Obama and the Democrats have long stated that they only want tax cut extension for those under the $250,00 mark and the middle class that “work hard”.  First, this implies that those who make more than that do not work hard.  But also, this neglects the fact that many businesses and business owners, the very people we need to invest in our economy and hire more workers, make more than $250k.  This is the real reason we need to keep the tax cuts for everybody.  Not the class warfare rhetoric we hear from some in D.C.

Regardless, Democrats continue to hold power until next year.  All politics aside, tax cuts need to be extended for at least most people before the expire the first of the year.  So if it takes a compromise with only partial extension, that’s better than no extension.  Then, when Republicans take the house next year, they can push for tax cut extension for everyone, forcing Obama and the Democrats to oppose or veto it.

Bottom line, Americans are begging for continued tax cuts.

Put a Cork in Wikileaks

November 30, 2010

Most people agree that the secret information published by Wikileaks and Julian Assange is incredibly harmful to our country, and that we need to put a cork in Wilileaks as soon as possible.  These leaks jeopardize the success of U.S. diplomacy, the War on Terror, and all other goals of U.S. foreign policy. Who wants to communicate with U.S. diplomats about sensitive topics knowing that the communications may cease to be confidential?  How can the international intelligence community share information with us about possible threats?  How can our own intelligence staff report their findings frankly knowing that it may be publicized at any moment?  Won’t this only encourage staff to to be less open and frank about their findings?  So how do we fix this, especially since Julian Assange is not a U.S. citizen.

First, simply limit as much as possible the security clearances to only those with the absolute necessity to the privileged information.  Pfc. Bradley Manning, the army Private accused as the source of leak, has bragged about the ease of downloading this information.  Drag him in, find out how he did it, and make sure we close that door and any others that may be discovered during his interrogation.  Also, find out how he was contacted/recruited to do this, so we might find others who may be working with Assange.  There is no excuse for the ease of such a leak.  By doing this, and limiting the amount of people with access, this will dramatically diminish the risk of another leak.

Also, prosecute Wikileaks sources to the absolute fullest extent of the law.  Sources should be made into examples to deter future sources from considering a similar stunt.  When other people see the prosecution of fellow leakers, they should be afraid to pass along information of their own.  There is a host of federal laws in which we can prosecute Pfc. Manning.  Let’s throw the book at him.

As for Assange himself, we need to do everything in our power to legally make his life difficult.  Not knowing the international law restrictions, it may be difficult to do much as he resides in Sweden.  But we can certainly work with the Swedish government to to some degree.  For instance, Assange has been accused of rape.  Let’s work to get him convicted.  It may not come with the punishment that it should for his theft of classified material, but he would at least be in prison for a time until we can get our act together and not have to worry about future leaks.

The overall theme here is to make an example out of the people who do this.  We need to create as much of a deterrent as possible to to keep other Wikileaks copycats from doing similar things, and to deter sources from leaking information to Wikileaks and similar future sites.

Trouble in the Korean Peninsula, Nothing New

November 23, 2010

The news today of trouble in the Korean Peninsula is nothing new for those who follow international relations.  The Korean War may have pushed the communists out of South Korea, but that conflict certainly did not end tensions in the region.  As you probably know, today shots flew leading to deaths and many injuries in South Korea.  Immediately following, many countries started finger pointing and an emergency session of the UN was called.  But is that really enough?  Does anyone really expect any meaningful progress to come from this emergency UN session?  Historically, probably not.

How many times have the UN countries met to deal with the very issue of North Korean aggression as far as nuclear weapons and tensions with South Korea?  Usually as a result of these UN meetings we get strongly worded letters, speeches, and verbal scoldings, but we never get real world solutions like economic sanctions, ultimatums, or any real cooperation between the National Security Council members.  Its time to get serious and put some real pressure on North Korea.  Of course, that’s easier said then done.  Especially from a U.S. perspective.

One of North Korea’s few remaining friends in the world is China, who stated today that both N. and S. Korea need to work together for peace.  Kind of sounds nice, but lets be clear.  There’s one aggressor in this situation: N. Korea.  Being the one hold out for sanctions on North Korea, pressure needs to be put on China to get on board with the other countries on the Security Council.  But that creates a problem for the U.S.  Due to our continual deficit spending, China continues to buy more of our debt, making us continually indebted to them.  Therefore, how can we really put pressure on the country we are relying on to continue to buy our out-of-control spending?  Because of our reckless spending our hands are now tied when it comes to the primary roll of government, national security.

The fighting today in the Korean Peninsula is nothing new.  It is a bi-product of the failures of the UN system, and the unwillingness of many countries, now including the United States, to get tough and force the North Koreans to abandon nuclear weapons and work for peace.  If the U.S. wants to get back in the game and return to our place as a world super power in global security, we need to get our fiscal house in order.  I pray our leaders will make the hard choices to do so.

Tax Cuts should be Easy

November 21, 2010

With time ticking down till the end of the year when the Bush tax cuts will expire, extending tax cuts should be easy – for both sides of the aisle.  The debate of extending the tax breaks, and to whom, has been a huge topic for the lame duck congress.  With little compromise being seen in the Capitol, as usual, this tax policy debate will continue.

It is clear from polling that a majority of people and congressmen want the tax cuts renewed.  However, it becomes less clear, and the debate intensifies, based on what income levels should continue to enjoy this tax break.  The President and some Democrats feel that families making over $250,00 should not continue to receive tax breaks, while the most progressive of the Democrats want the tax cuts to expire.  Republicans state that it would help the economy most to continue tax cuts to everyone regardless of income level.  Rumors fly that some Democrats, including the President, are backing down to Republican wishes, or a compromise of making the new cut-off line at the $500,000 – $1m income level.  However, nothing substantive looks ready to move on the House or Senate floor.

Personally, I believe that these tax cuts should be renewed for everyone to have the most effect on economic recovery.  Also, historically it has been shown that by lowering taxes and simultaneously cutting federal expenditures, the economy can grow and deficits can be decreased. Through polling, most Americans agree with this notion. At this moment in time when we have a deficit ballooning, and the economy showing little signs of picking up, it is imperative to at least renew some of the taxes.  But all disagreements on policy aside, it would be good politically for both sides of the aisle.

It would be politically beneficial for both parties to at least pass some extension of the cuts.  After the “shalacking” the Democrats took a few short weeks ago, Obama should do a Clinton and at least attempt to work with the Republicans, compromise, and move slightly to the right politically.  Especially after the failure of his stimulus packages, the President needs to be seen trying something else to right the economic ship.  And again, since the country has moved right politically, it might not hurt for him to try a tax cut extension.  Although this may anger Obama’s more liberal supporters, I believe the majority of the country would see this as beneficial.

In the campaign, Obama touted himself as a uniter that could find compromise and work with the other side.  We haven’t seen that yet, and people are disappointed.  This is the perfect situation to finally show people that he can compromise.  And of course, Democrats need to stop the bleeding, and do something to get on the good side of the American people after being on the wrong side of health care reform.

For Republicans, it is equally, if not more beneficial to at least pass some extension.  By at least getting a partial renewal, and hopefully for Republicans the $1m ceiling compromise, much greater than the $250,000 Obama and Dems are currently offering, they receive a political victory heading toward the end of the year.  This fits well with the Republican political agenda, and gives a slight head start on fulfilling their “Pledge to America”.  This at least gets the ball rolling.  Then next year, when the Republicans take majority, and Boehner presumably takes the Speaker role, they can push for further tax cuts along with the weekly spending cuts Boehner has already said to be planning.  Not only would this be beneficial politically with the Republican base and the many Independents that voted for them in November, but I believe this would also be a good recipe for addressing the national debt and hopefully grow the economy.  Of course, a still-Democrat controlled Senate stands in the way, along with Obama’s veto pen.  However, from a purely political standpoint, Americans do not want to see Obama and the Democrats blocking tax cuts and spending cuts that could help our economy and decrease debt, especially after the clear failures of deficit spending stimulus that added billions to the national debt.

The bottom line is that for the health of our country and economy, the Bush tax cuts need to be extended, at least for the majority of folks, and at least for right now.  Therefore, its best for both parties, if not by extending all the tax cuts, to at least find a compromise and find one fast.  December is almost upon us, and everyone, except the most progressive, will be extremely disappointed to see the calendar year change without some extension, along with another all time low in the congressional approval rating.