New Congressional Motto: Country Last

The Senate passed the Biden/McConnell compromise bill last night. Now, it has to go to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill delays some of the decisions that have been holding things up for two months. In other words, our elected leaders plan to put themselves and this country through this again in two months. All because they couldn’t manage to do their jobs now.

Evidently, if  Vice President Biden didn’t have the personal relationships with various senators that he does, we wouldn’t even have this compromise. The message in this, so far as I’m concerned, is that maybe civility does have a place in better government. This hate-filled what’s-in-it-for-me brinksmanship certainly isn’t doing us much good.

An ABC News article that explains the real issues behind this fight surprisingly well says in part:

Going over the “fiscal cliff” may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it’s a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.

They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that anybipartisan compromise must include. Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.

That’s why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation’s economic recovery.

A breach of the fiscal cliff’s midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn’t keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way. The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it’s painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America’s leaders, at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon. That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government’s borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt …

… The vast majority of congressional Republicans have vowed never to approve higher tax rates. It’s no idle promise. Many of them preferred to let the fiscal cliff deadline pass, causing tax rates to rise on nearly all American workers, at least for a time. Then, presumably this week, they can vote to cut taxes for around 98 percent of Americans, rather than vote in December to raise rates on the richest 2 percent and avoid the cliff. (Read more here.)

What that last paragraph means is that the House Republicans have deliberately left the country go past the fiscal cliff. The reason is that, since the effect of doing this is an automatic raise in taxes on ordinary Americans, they will be voting for a tax cut when they pass the Senate compromise bill.

It’s all a shell game designed to let them say that they voted to cut taxes on their campaign pieces. That’s why they’re putting this country through this.

A CNN article describing the compromise bill and the legislative process it faces says in part:

(CNN) – If a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff becomes law, all but a sliver of the U.S. population will avoid higher tax rates, some key issues will be put off for two months, and all sides in the battle will emerge with a mixed record: winning key points, while ceding ground on others.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

It would raise tax rates for those over those levels — marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. GOP members planned to meet at 1 p.m., two aides told CNN.

“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” one GOP leadership aide said. (Read more here.)

And away we go …

 

We’re going over the cliff folks, courtesy of the United States House of Representatives.

And please, don’t give me the partisan arguments about who is naughty and nice in this deal. It’s not the Republican’s fault. It’s not the Democrat’s fault.

It’s our fault.

We elected these bozos.

A lot of otherwise intelligent people are out there spinning up excuses for “their” political team like hamsters in a road race. Their story — and I’m sure they’re going to stick with it no matter what — is that their guys are white as new snow in this debacle. They’ll claim this in the face of the obvious realty that you can’t make a mess this big without everybody involved pitching in. That means both the Republicans and the Democrats and you and me  as well for letting them get away with it.

Will they vote on it tomorrow? Who knows? Whichever way it goes, they’re sure to pass something and do something that hurts people like me … and you.

I’m going to celebrate the New Year and have a fun evening. Then, tomorrow, I’m going to start my annual New Year’s diet. After I sleep in.

Somewhere in there I think we all need to think about housecleaning. And I’m not talking about the houses where we raise our families, cook our meals and mop the floors. I mean our political house.

Here, from the Washington Post, is the gist of the story. Read it and weep.

No Vote on “Fiscal Cliff” Package

Tonight: House Aides

The House will vote on other matters at 6:30 p.m.

and adjourn for 2012, House aides told NBC News

Monday, Dec 31, 2012

Members of the House of Representatives will not meet their midnight deadline to approve a “fiscal cliff” package, aides told NBC News. Instead, they will vote on a series of non-controversial “suspension bills,” before adjourning for 2012 without a new fiscal agreement.

The decision to leave “fiscal cliff” matters unsresolved came despite President Barack Obama’s earlier assessment that a deal was in sight but not yet finalized. The emerging deal he described would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

“There are still issues left to resolve, but we’re hopeful Congress can get it done,” Obama said at a campaign-style event at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

What was done, officials told NBC News, was a deal to raise the tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000. Also, estates would be taxed at 40 percent after the first $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, up from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Unemployment benefits would be extended for one year. Without the extension, 2 million people would lose benefits beginning in early January. (Read more here.)

The Fiscal Cliff: America’s First Self-Inflicted Recession??

Experts Forecast the

Cost of Failure to

Compromise

New York Times

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ | New York Times  

Even if President Obama and Republicans in Congress can reach a last-minute compromise that averts some tax increases before Monday’s midnight deadline, experts still foresee a significant drag on the economy in the first half of 2013 from the fiscal impasse in Washington.

While negotiators in the capital focus on keeping Bush-era tax rates in place for all but the wealthiest Americans, other tax increases are expected to go into effect regardless of what happens in the coming days. For example, a two percentage point jump in payroll taxes for Social Security is all but certain after Jan. 1, a change that will equal an additional $2,000 from the paycheck of a worker earning $100,000 a year.

Many observers initially expected the lower payroll-tax deduction rate of 4.2 percent to be preserved. But in recent weeks, as it became clear that political leaders were prepared to let that rate rise to 6.2 percent, economists reduced their predictions for growth in the first quarter accordingly.

Largely because of this jump in payroll taxes, Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, is halving his prediction for economic growth in the first quarter to 1 percent from an earlier estimate of just over 2 percent. That represents a significant slowdown in economic growth from the third quarter of 2012, when the economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

Mr. Obama has pushed to preserve Bush-era tax rates on income below $250,000 a year but Republicans have held out for a higher threshold, perhaps in the neighborhood of $400,000 a year. Republicans also favor deeper spending cuts to curb long-term budget deficits — a move many Democrats oppose.

While hopes dimmed Sunday afternoon that a deal could be reached before Jan. 1, most observers said they did not expect the full impact from more than $600 billion in potential tax increases and spending cuts to swamp the economy right away. Indeed, a compromise could be struck in the coming weeks that heads off the worst of the fallout.

In the event no compromise is found, however, the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. (Read more here.)

HHS Mandate: Hobby Lobby Will Not Comply Despite Higher Court Ruling

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Attorneys representing Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit against the HHS Mandate announced that the company will not comply with government demands that it pay for insurance for the morning after pill.

This announcement comes despite a ruling by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor that Hobby Lobby will not receive injunctive relief from the Mandate and must begin paying a $1.3 million dollar a day fine if it does not provide insurance coverage for the morning after pill to its employees. Hobby Lobby also announced that it will continue its long-standing practice of providing health insurance coverage for other contraceptives for its employees.

It is incredible to me that abortion advocates are so aggressive in their efforts to force people who do not agree with them to actually participate in abortions. This extends from attempts to force doctors and nurses to participate in performing abortions to the HHS Mandate which seeks to coerce religious organizations and businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, to pay for abortifacients.

The morning after pill can be dangerous to women’s health, especially if it is taken repeatedly. Despite this, it appears that there is a concerted effort to push this high-dose hormone as a contraceptive replacement to be used casually and often.

In addition to the obvious moral and religious objections to an abortifacient drug like this, I think there are other moral objections to it on the basis of women’s health.

Hobby Lobby’s statement says in full:

tatement Regarding Sotomayor Opinion

“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” — Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Mor information concerning the case can be found on The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty website.

Hobby Lobby Faces $1.3 million per day fines over HHS Mandate starting Jan 1

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Hobby Lobby will have to begin paying fines of $1.3 million per day next Tuesday, thanks to the HHS Mandate.

After federal appeals court ruled against their lawsuit regarding the mandate, Hobby Lobby petitioned the Supreme Court for injunctive relief. What that means is that they asked the Supreme Court to push back the date on which the fines would become effective.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied this petition. That means that Hobby Lobby will be subject to $1.3 million in fines every single day, beginning January 1.

All this comes from an agency rule which was signed by one man: President Obama.

It is not a statute that was passed by a legislative body. We the people were not at the table when the HHS Mandate was created. It was written by an appointed (and hand-picked) committee which was balanced heavily in favor of supporters and activists for Planned Parenthood and abortion.

This Mandate is in direct violation of the promise that President Obama gave to the American people and to pro-life Democrats who helped him pass the Affordable Health Care Act. To put it bluntly, the President lied to pro life Democratic members of Congress such as Congressman Bart Stupak in order to pass Obamacare. Former Congressman Stupak has signed a letter in opposition to the Mandate essentially saying this.

For myself, I plan to go shopping at Hobby Lobby.

These are two quotes from different articles which describe the logic of filing the petition to the Supreme Court and the decision by Justice Sotomayor.

Justice Sotomayor Rejects Hobby Lobby’s Request for Mandate Relief (1192)
The Christian-owned business now faces fines of up to $1.3 million per day after Jan. 1 if it refuses to provide abortion-inducing drugs in its company health insurance plan.

by REGISTER STAFF 12/27/2012 Comment

– Wikicommons
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has rejected a request that the federal government temporarily halt enforcement of the federal abortifacient mandate against the Christian-owned business Hobby Lobby, the Associated Press reported Dec. 27.
The Green family, owners of the Oklahoma-based retail chain Hobby Lobby, does not object to providing contraceptives through the company’s health insurance plan. But the company has filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Healthcare Act’s mandate that abortifacient drugs also be funded, on the grounds that involvement in abortions is a violation of the Greens’ religious beliefs.
In her Dec. 26 decision denying the request from Hobby Lobby and a related company, Mardel Inc., Justice Sotomayor ruled the Greens’ companies do not meet the legal standard for preventing enforcement of the mandate while their lawsuit is before the courts, the Associated Press reported.
Hobby Lobby sought relief from enforcement of the mandate because as of Jan. 1, the company will face potential fines of $1.3 million per day if it declines to provide coverage of the so-called “morning after” and “week after” abortifacient drugs in its health insurance plan.
Hobby Lobby appealed to the Supreme Court after a federal court denied its request for relief from enforcement of the abortifacient mandate Dec. 20. The 10th Circuit Court rejected the motion on the grounds that the religious burden to the Green family was “indirect and attenuated.”
Some religious nonprofits are not required to comply with the mandate until Aug. 1, 2013, while the Obama administration works out the details of changes it has promised to make to the mandate to address their religious objections. However, other religious employers were required to begin providing co-pay-free contraceptives and related services by August 2012, or whenever they subsequently updated their health plans.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby as well as a number of other organizations and groups that have filed lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate, said in a Dec. 20 press release that “the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the ‘morning-after’ and ‘week-after’ pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/justice-sotomayor-rejects-hobby-lobbys-request-for-mandate-relief#ixzz2GHDEodQD

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2012 / 05:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Arts and crafts giant Hobby Lobby will appeal to the nation’s highest court after an appeals court ruled the federal contraception mandate does not impose a “substantial burden” on the owners’ religious freedom.

“The Green family is disappointed with this ruling,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is handling the case.

He explained that the Christian family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby must now “seek relief from the United States Supreme Court.”

“The Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith,” Duncan said.

On Dec. 20, an appeals court denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction to block the federal contraception mandate from being enforced against them while their case moves forward in the court.

The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause early abortions. As Christians, the Greens are morally opposed to funding any type of abortion, including those caused by “morning after” and “week after” pills. (Read more here.)

Playing Chicken With Our Economic Future …

U.S. President Barack Obama departs Honolulu, Hawaii December 26, 2012, for a return trip to Washington. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama was flying back to Washington on Thursday and the top Republican in Congress planned to speak with House of Representatives lawmakers as the clock ticked toward a year-end deadline for action to avert the looming “fiscal cliff” tax hikes and spending cuts.

Markets around the world awaited action in Washington to prevent tax hikes on nearly all Americans and the deep automatic government spending cuts due to kick in at the beginning of next month that could push the U.S. economy back into recession.

Such action, however, remained far from certain, with Republicans and Democrats each insisting the other side move first amid continuing partisan gridlock.

Air Force One carrying Obama from Hawaii took off at about 3 a.m. EST for a journey that can take nearly half a day.

The U.S. Senate was scheduled to meet later on Thursday but on matters unrelated to the “fiscal cliff.” The Democrats control the Senate and theRepublicans control the House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said through a spokesman that the Senate was ready to consider any bills coming from the House but would take no action on its own. (Read more here.)

Starbucks to Politicians: Come Together

NEW YORK, N.Y. -Associated Press

Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C. area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultzsays the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks cafes are being asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

For the latest push, Starbucks is taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it. (Read more here.)

Fiscal Cliff: Obama wants more than just taxes on rich folks …

Are we heading for a future where the only non-profits will be those with government blessing and government funding?

A move by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable donations could lead this country in exactly that direction. The administration has made this part of the package it is bargaining for in the so-called “fiscal cliff” imbroglio.

A December 13 Washington Post article discusses the lobbying efforts concerning the move to cut charitable deductions to non-profits. It says in part:

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”
(Read more here.)

If the government cuts off deductions for charitable giving, where will that leave the many non-profits out there? Where, especially will it leave those non-profits who have the temerity to oppose the ruling powers in government?

I think it will leave them in a position where they either have to go to the government itself for additional funding, or curtail their activities. This, of course, would mean that those non-profits which please government leaders, particularly politicians, would become powerful and that their relationship with these politicians would tend toward a kind of political/social/financial incest.

Those non-profits with the temerity to oppose these powerful people would see their influence wither and weaken. NGOs have been the voice of conscience in far too many situations around the world for moves to constrict their funding to be a benign act.

That is where I think the administration’s ploy to reduce charitable tax-exemptions by the wealthy is heading. I’ve been hearing behind-the-scenes rumbling about plans to bring non-profits under the government heel for over a year now. This move makes me think that they are more than rumblings.

By linking the idea of reducing deductions for non-profit donations with the very popular idea of having the wealthy pay more of their fair share of the cost of government, the Obama administration has been able to slip this by the public with very little attention.

That’s great news for Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood seems to have the President’s unwavering commitment. The Affordable Health Care Act is a plenteous bounty for Planned Parenthood. The administration has been willing to go to the wall in moves to attack organizations that Planned Parenthood regards as enemies. It’s even gone so far as to take on the First Amendment to attack the Catholic Church.

Based on all that, I’m not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt about this move to limit deductions for charitable donations. I think, given recent history in these matters, that would be almost childishly foolish.

 

Lest we forget …

These irreplaceable people lost their lives in Newton Connecticut one week ago today.

Don’t let political squabbling make us forget them.

Unseemly haste …

The funerals are not finished.

Why did the President rush this country into a divisive debate about gun control before the victims of this tragedy were buried?

Why the unseemly haste?

Couldn’t he have given this country time to grieve before pushing us into another political fight? Would it be so hard to wait a few days?

Christmas is in four days.

Why didn’t he at least give us time to bury our dead and be together with our families at Christmas before forcing another battle on us?


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