Debt Limit Fight: House of Representatives Stops Saber Rattling, Starts Negotiating

It sounds like the House GOP is finally listening to somebody besides each other.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that they might actually be responding to the disgust coming at them from we the people.

In a reverse of their previous saber-rattling, they have come up with a proposal that would both raise the debt limit and (hopefully) address the deficit. Kudos to them.

Now, it’s up to President Obama. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

A New York Times article describing this situation reads in part:

In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit
By JONATHAN WEISMAN

WASHINGTON — Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.
Related

The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.

The change in tack represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with immediate spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to shrink the trillion-dollar deficit.

To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional. (Read more here.)

Obama Says He Will Use Executive Orders as Part of Gun Control Package

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama has indicated that he will use executive orders to side-step Congress in his push for gun control.

The use of executive orders has grown over the decades. In my opinion, it has reached the point that it verges on making Congress obsolete. Aside from whatever issue is in question at the time executive orders are used, there is another, underlying issue.

Is Congress going to be reduced to a bombastic cypher? Are we in effect electing a dictator for four years when we elect a president? Has agency rule-making power, as in the case of the HHS Mandate, become a sort of unelected shadow government?

Congress has ceded its natural functions to other entities by virtue of its unwillingness to perform those functions itself. Congress has the power to belay executive orders and agency mandates. But it won’t use it because it is chasing its own legislative tail by focusing all its efforts on constant partisan wrangling. This partisan brinksmanship has reached the point that it is damaging this country directly and destroying the balance of powers indirectly.

Nature and government abhor a vacuum. If Congress refuses to use the powers it is given under the Constitution, some other governmental entity will take them up. In this case, the president, by means of executive orders and faceless agency bureaucrats, by means of regulations and mandates, are usurping Congress’s rightful function.

That means that we the people are being dealt out of the discussion. The president is the one official who should be elected by all the people, but thanks to the electoral college and modern targeted campaigning, that is no longer true.

Both presidents Bush and Obama were elected by means of targeted campaigns aimed at sections of the voters in electorally important states. These campaigns ignored the rest of the country. In November 2012, this resulted in a win for President Obama that was achieved by the odd combination of an electoral landslide coupled with a razor-thin win in the popular vote.

More and more, the president is not elected by all the people, but is, just like members of Congress, elected by targeted coalitions of special interest groups in key areas.

The result is a government so fractured and focused on itself that it no longer even attempts to govern the country. Both sides in these contentious debates about gun control, the deficit and our unending cycle of wars are focused on winning, not on governing. What I mean by that is that they are focused on what it takes to enact the law. Period.

So we have the sorry spectacle of a president who flat-out says he will use executive orders to wire around Congress on one of the most contentious issues facing the country. This is a disastrous move for the country. It can and will create more divisiveness and anger in an already divided and angry nation.

The Associated Press article discussing President Obama’s plans for the upcoming gun control debate reads in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing powerful opposition to sweeping gun regulations, President Barack Obama is weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone, congressional officials said. But the scope of such measures is limited.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposals Wednesday, barely over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., thrust the gun issue into the national spotlight after years of inaction by Obama and lawmakers.

At the same time Obama is vowing not to back off his support for sweeping gun legislation that would require congressional backing — including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal background checks — despite opposition from the influential gun lobby.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said at a news conference Monday.

“My starting point is not to worry about the politics,” he said. “My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden’s gun task force and is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself, using his presidential powers.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress. (Read more here.)

God Sells Magazines. God and Obama Sell Lots of Magazines.

Big names sell magazines.

Eye-catching covers sell magazines.

Eye-catching covers with big names sell lots of magazines.

Who’s got the biggest name of all?

Let’s look

Double big names, with an Asian twist. How New Age.

The biggest name of all.

And of course, our ultimate destination.

If Your Computer Goes Wacko, Don’t Blame Obama

If your computer goes wacko, don’t blame Obama.

NASA scientists say the sun itself is getting testy these days, and the way things are turning (literally) we might be in line to get a blast of that testiness here on planet Earth.

Solar flares, which have been relatively quiescent in recent history, are revving up. Not only that, but the sun is rotating and the planets are aligning in such a way that one of these blasts might be on a trajectory to collide with us. Thanks to the ozone layer, all we’re likely to notice are Northern lights, cranky computers and other electrical glitches.

Given our computer-dependent, electronics-controlled way of life, that could make for some interesting happenings.

Here is the forecast, straight from SpaceWeather.com:

CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of M-classsolar flares, and a 10% chance of X-flares today. The probable source would be big sunspot AR1654, which is squarely facing Earth. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

ARCTIC AURORAS: A stream of solar wind is blowing around Earth and buffeting our planet’s magnetic field. Although the pressure of the wind has not been strong enough to trigger a full-fledged geomagnetic storm, auroras are nevertheless dancing around the Arctic Circle. Peter Rosén sends this picture from Kiruna in the Swedish Lapland: 

Fiscal Cliff Bill Will Shrink Your Paycheck

Your take home pay will be a bit less, thanks to the “Fiscal Cliff” bill that Congress passed at the first of the year.

The reason is that the reduction in Social Security taxes which Congress passed at the request of President Obama has expired. This reduction was part of the stimulus package used to keep the country from going into an economic free-fall after the housing crash and resultant lending crisis of 2008.

I’m certain that some of my Republican readers will chide me for saying this. According to them, when I criticize the Obama administration, I’m a statesman. When I criticize the Republicans, I’m a biased Democrat.

However, it is a plain fact that I never benefitted in my paycheck from any of the huge tax cuts that President Bush passed during his presidency. My take home pay did not go up. My taxes did not drop.

On the other hand, the tax cuts President Obama enacted raised my take home pay about $100/month.

I am not a subscriber to “trickle down” economics. The reason I am not is that the money doesn’t trickle down. Or if it does, it doesn’t trickle far enough to get down to me and any of the people I represent.

We’ll talk more about this later. For now, I want to draw your attention to an article from the Baptist Press which outlines some the effects that the “Fiscal Cliff” deal had on deductions for charitable giving. I’ve bolded the section which talks about social security to make it easier for you to find.

The article reads in part:

The ‘fiscal cliff’ bill & charitable giving
 

Posted on Jan 8, 2013 | by Warren Peek/Southern Baptist Foundation

NASHVILLE (BP) — After weeks of political drama, the U.S. has averted or at least delayed the so-called “fiscal cliff.”The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has been signed into law by the president after passing both houses of Congress.

Don’t you love the names of these bills? Taxpayer “relief” means that about 77 percent of U.S. households will pay higher taxes according to Bloomberg, mostly because of the expiration of the payroll tax cut. While some provisions are still set to expire, several provisions have been made permanent.

Following is a brief summary of various provisions of the act that may impact charitable giving:

Income taxes 

The 2012 ordinary income tax rates remain intact for most taxpayers. For individuals with incomes over $400,000 and joint filers over $450,000, the federal income tax rate increased from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. The dividend and capital gains rates also increased from 15 percent to 20 percent for those filers as well. For most other taxpayers, however, the capital gains rate remains at 15 percent.

Phase-out of itemized deductions and personal exemptions 

For individuals earning above $250,000 and joint filers above $300,000, itemized deductions and personal exemptions are limited. Total itemized deductions are now reduced by 3 percent. This phase-out will be watched closely, as there is still pressure to cap or phase out all itemized deductions.

Payroll taxes

The reduction of the payroll tax in Social Security is now over. Social Security will now collect 2 percent more from our paychecks. An employee earning $113,700 (the maximum amount of earnings subject to the tax), will pay an additional $2,274 in payroll taxes this year. (Read more here.)

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday.

If you don’t live near a Hobby Lobby, you can still shop at their on-line site. Also, the family that owns Hobby Lobby also owns Mardels. Mardels is a Christian office supply/book-music-Bible/homeschooling supply store.

I shopped at Mardels for curricula and supplies back when I was homeschooling. I’ve also bought several Bibles, as well as Christian gifts, cards and Christmas ornaments there. It’s a great store. You can find it online, if there’s not a Mardel’s near you.

We need to stand with other Christians when they make a courageous stand for Christ. I’m going to buy something at either Mardel’s or Hobby Lobby this week, and every paycheck I get from now on until the government attack on them is over. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and they are being attacked by our government for their faithfulness to Him.

Here is an interesting article from Christian News concerning the wellspring of support that is building for the Green family and their fine Christian businesses.

Christians ‘Stand With Hobby Lobby’ As Company

Faces Fine of 1.3 Million Daily for Defying Obamacare

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –  Christians across the country state that they will be standing with Hobby Lobby this weekend as the popular craft chain continues to defy the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.

Joe Grabowski of StandWithHobbyLobby.comhas named Saturday, January 5th as the official appreciation day for the company, when supporters will shop at their local Hobby Lobby outlet to show their support.

“On Saturday, January 5th, all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS mandate’s unfair impositions upon religious individuals and corporate entities are called upon to show their support for Hobby Lobby by shopping either at their local retail Hobby Lobby store or online,” he writes. “[T]he justices of the Supreme Court will be watching on January 5th, be assured, and they’ll know the minds and hearts of the American people as to this matter — but only if we get the word out and stand up in large enough numbers to make an impact!”

As of press time, over 4,000 people stated that they would be participating in the event.

“I will be there spending my $$ to back this company,” writes supporter Eric Coval. “They are one of the few who are taking a stand against a federal government that seems hell bent to trample on our liberties, and when we cry foul they tell us to be good little subjects and that we are too extreme. Hobby Lobby, fight the righteous fight!”

“We love Hobby Lobby!” commented Beth Collins. “I won’t be able to make it in person, but I will shop online that day to show my support!”

Others stated that they have never shopped at their local Hobby Lobby outlet before, but will do so this Saturday in order to make their voice heard and support the cause. (Read more here.)

 

 

U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)

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.)


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