Archive for the ‘taxes’ Category

Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

December 3, 2008

Remember this simple catchphrase for priorities: “It’s the economy, stupid”?

Many think that should be the watchword for the new President Barack Obama.  But a confusing and dangerous miasma of foreign policy challenges lurks and lurches ahead. Without carefully applied wisdom, the United States could make matters worse on a wide range of international fronts and issues…

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two Blackberris and some light reading.
(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Yesterday, two think tanks said the U.S. should move away from Iraq and work like the devil on the nuclear covetous Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran.

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations said it is time to make peace in the Middle east as a “top priority.”  For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.

Now the two agree the real problem is Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Nuclear aspirant: Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran

One difficulty with this line of thinking is that, depending on the day, the think tank report one considers, and the newspaper headline, America faces stadium full of “top priorities.”

In Russia, Medvedev and Putin believe they should be tops on the Obama agenda.  Mr. Medvedev even threatened to deploy nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe unles and until the U.S. backed off of its missile defense ambitions with Poland and the Czech Republic.

And the Medvedev/Putin thrust cannot be overlooked: the two had no qualms about invading Georgia to get the attention of the U.S. and NATO: and it worked.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russia’s Medvedev, in front of a startegic Russian missile, said his missile advances will overwhelm U.S. defensive measures in the next few years.
AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov

Terrorism could be the number one priority.  Just yesterday the U.S. Director of National Security said in essence that the Pakistani Islamist radical militant group  Lashkar-e-Taiba  blew up Mubai, India, last week, killing nearly 200.

On the same day, yesterday, a group of wise men said the U.S. can expect to face a biological or chemical attack.

Is another 9-11 in America’s future?  And are we ready to defend or respond?

Pakistan itself might lay claim to Mr. Obama’s top priority.  Bankrupt, last weekend rioters ripped through the nations largest city, the Pakistani Army was pinned down by terrorists in the tribal areas, and the nuclear-armed government was under fire from all domestic and international sides over Mumbai.

A Pakistani newspaper wondered yesterday if the Army was about to break with the elected government of mr. Zardari and his Minister Mr. Gilani.

Then there are a few small matters with China, North Korea and you name it.

Oh and there are just a few domestic realities and campaign promises that need our next president’s attention: OPEC and oil, drill or not to drill, schools and education, tax relief, jobs and unemployment,health care, AIDS and the list goes on.

You won’t convince me for a second that the modern miracle of multi-tasking and several Blackberries will resolve this poisonous soup.

America needs to take a deep breath and close its eyes: too much Obama-mania could cause one not to think.

Mr. Obama, the United States, all Americans and all Western allies are in for some very hard work, sacrifices of an unknown nature, and difficult decisions.

Here’s a simple truth: The age of simplicity is over.

*****

From Wikipedia:

It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.

The New World Financial Order

November 16, 2008

For the past seven years, according to Rep. Jim Moran, “We have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in the simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it.” Actually, that “simplistic notion” has been the linchpin of the American system of free enterprise for the past two centuries. It has served to make the United States the most bountiful, wealthy and charitable nation on earth. Yet Moran says that system “doesn’t work in the long run.”

By Oliver North

My fellow Americans, welcome to the long run.

The coincidence of an economic downturn and our most recent political realignment have produced calls for urgent, dramatic, decisive action. Liberal politicians, such as Moran, are suggesting that we all would be better off if we’d adopt a more punitive tax code and use the Internal Revenue Service to redistribute the wealth. Republicans and Democrats already have allied to use our tax dollars to bail out an insurance giant, mortgage companies and financial institutions that made bad loans and extended credit to borrowers who couldn’t pay. Coming soon: tax dollars to save U.S. automakers. Attached to all these U.S. Treasury checks: countless pages of new fine-print regulations designed to prevent future financial stupidity — or to ameliorate its consequences. But as they say in the Marines, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Read the rest:
http://www.creators.com/opinion/oliver-
north.html?columnsName=ono

Poll Tells Obama: Fix Economy First; Tax Cuts When You Can

November 12, 2008

People want the tax cuts promised during the presidential campaign, but they may be willing to wait while President-elect Obama takes on the larger issue of fixing the economy.

Only 36 percent say trimming income taxes should be a top priority when the new president takes office in January, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. That was less than half the 84 percent who cited improving the economy as a No. 1 goal, and the 80 percent who said creating jobs should be a paramount task.

“I don’t think it’s going to work in this instance,” said Ryan Anderson, 31, a Democrat from Bloomington, Minn., who thinks tax reductions would have little impact on most families’ budgets. “That’s kind of like shooting a BB gun at a freight train.”

Obama promised to cut taxes for working families during the campaign.

By ALAN FRAM and TREVOR TOMPSON, Associated Press Writers

Even fewer — 29 percent — said another top priority should be Obama’s plan to allow tax cuts to expire for families earning more than $250,000 a year. He has said he would use the revenue that would raise to help finance some of his priorities.

Amid such talk, 72 percent in the AP-GfK poll voiced confidence Obama will make the changes needed to revive the stalling economy. Underscoring how widely the public is counting on its new leader, 44 percent of Republicans joined nearly all Democrats and most independents in expressing that belief.

Obama has called for about $175 billion in new stimulus spending, including for public works projects, and has said he would make it a top priority in January if it is not enacted by a lame-duck session of Congress and President Bush this year.

The poll shows trust in Obama’s ability to succeed is even broader, at least for now. Sixty-eight percent said they think when he takes office in January, the new president will be able to enact the policies he pushed during his presidential campaign.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081112/ap_on_go_
pr_wh/ap_poll_obama;_ylt=ArhlQW_
78Fn7nRDh2uPpJ_qs0NUE

Time To Manage Iraq and Russia like flashing traffic lights

November 12, 2008

“Ready, Fire, Aim” caricatures how U.S. administrations and governments often behave. Had George W. Bush  not succumbed to this syndrome in going to war in Iraq, President-elect John McCain might be fashioning his transition. Instead, millions at home and abroad are congratulating and saluting the next American president, Barack Obama.  

By Harlan Ullman
Op-Ed
The Washington Times

Flush with a historic victory, the Obama team is planning his administration. President Bush has promised full cooperation. Despite the danger warnings, will Mr. Obama and his senior advisors fall into the trap of ready, fire, aim in translating campaign promises and slogans into policies and in selecting people for high office? The electoral rout of Republicans giving Democrats large majorities in both Houses of Congress will add political adrenaline rather than restraint to this transition process.

Clearly, economic and financial crises along with the war in Iraq and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan will rise to the top of Mr. Obama’s already overcrowded agenda filled with a myriad of other competing pressures and decisions that must be made. So what can Mr. Obama and his team do to ensure that his administration will reflect aims and objectives based on the nation’s best interests rather than on campaign sound bites, political IOU’s and partisan biases? Step one is defining the problems and the possible corrective actions. Step two is identifying the skill sets that will be needed in assembling a team for governing. Step three is prioritizing step one and connecting with step two. Given the on-going wars and economic crises, Mr. Obama will be under great pressure to make these choices quickly if only to build public confidence in his ability to lead.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting with ...
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow November 11, 2008.REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool (RUSSIA)

Consider three of the most pressing issues: the economy, Iraq and with President Dmitry Medvedev’s latest challenge to install short range missiles along its western borders to counter the missile defense systems being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Obama’s economic team will extend far beyond his choice for Treasury. The heads of the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers are part of the team. The skill sets must include wide experience in economic crises; deep appreciation of macro-and microeconomics and business; and master political abilities to deal with diverse and often adversarial constituencies. No person has all of these qualities. But which are most important for each position? That judgment should drive the choice and not merely the need to name names of people who are competent but not necessarily in the crucial areas.

An employee shows dollar notes at a foreign exchange unit at ...

At the same time, Mr. Obama has promised to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. The other 5 percent however pay the lion’s share of taxes. And if the Bush tax cuts are not extended next year, everyone’s pocket book will be hit. A cardinal rule in times of recession is not to raise taxes. The new team better understand this reality, otherwise the economic mess will worsen irrespective of campaign slogans and promises.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran’s Ahmadinejad

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/n
ov/12/with-all-deliberate-speed/

Economy won’t stop Obama’s priorities, aides say

November 9, 2008

The economic crisis will not stop President-elect Barack Obama from expanding health care, overhauling education and energy policy, and passing a middle-class tax cut soon after he takes office in January, senior aides said on Sunday.

Meanwhile the U.S. Congress should act to ease the pain of an economy sliding into recession by extending unemployment benefits and boosting aid to states struggling to meet their health-care obligations, they said.

Obama’s transitional team has outlined an ambitious agenda for the next several months as it scrambles to assemble an administration in the face of what is widely viewed as the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters

The economic crisis will not prevent Obama from pursuing the priorities he outlined on the campaign trail, said John Podesta, co-chair of Obama’s transition team.

These include extending heath care to the nation’s 47 million uninsured, reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil, and improving public education, Podesta said.

“These are all core, if you will, economic questions and they need to be tackled together, and I think you’ll have a program, and a strategy to move aggressively across all those fronts,” Podesta said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Congress is expected to return in a temporary session as soon as next week to take up a stimulus package defeated by Senate Republicans in September.

That package should not be tied to a free-trade deal with Colombia as some Republicans have suggested, said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who will become Obama’s chief of staff when he takes office on January 20.

“You don’t link those essential needs to some other trade deal,” Emanuel said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081109/pl_nm/us_usa_politics_
stimulus;_ylt=AuXMEwYg.GtybLaxEx.SZdGs0NUE

Conservatives: We Didn’t Just Lose a Race. We Lost Our Bearings.

November 9, 2008

It is not exactly a blinding insight to note that the Republican Party has lost its way. The election of Barack Obama was simply the result of an intellectual decline that began with the start of President Bush‘s reelection campaign in the summer of 2003 and continued unabated, culminating in Gov. Sarah Palin‘s unabashed appeals this year to resentful, blue-collar Republican culture warriors.

By Dov S. Zakheim
The Washington Post
.
Palin’s error, John McCain‘s error and the GOP‘s error was to assume that a shrinking slice of the U.S. population could constitute an increasingly large and influential faction of the party. There are simply too few culturally conservative whites to sustain a national political party. At most, that community can contribute to a larger coalition; it cannot constitute that coalition on its own.

How did we lose our bearings so badly? In late 1998, when I joined then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s foreign policy team (famously dubbed the “Vulcans”), I was going to work for a man who stood for five key principles that many of us thought would underpin a national Republican majority for decades to come. Last week’s failure stemmed from my party’s failure to hew to these values.

The first and best-known of these was “compassionate conservatism,” exemplified by the insistence that no child be left behind in poverty and despair — a reflection of President Bush’s determination to improve the lot of underprivileged Americans, especially minorities.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/0
6/AR2008110603000.html

Even if Obama’s Perfect, Economy May Continue to Drag

November 9, 2008

This is one hell of a way to win.

Barack Obama owes his victory in large measure to the prospect of the longest and deepest economic downturn in a quarter-century and perhaps since the Great Depression. If he performs well, he could become a great president. If he flubs it, he could get the same reception as Jimmy Carter. In the crassest political terms, it was good luck to have the financial crisis hit so close to the election. But Obama’s lucky streak will end in a hurry if he can’t find a way out of this mess. He will also have to manage expectations: Even if he does everything perfectly, we probably won’t turn the corner for 18 months, and the downturn could last far longer than that.

By Joseph Stiglitz
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 9, 2008; Page B03

The first task facing President-elect Obama, after eight years of misguided economic policies, will be to begin the recovery — or at least forestall a further decline. It won’t be easy. Some 1.2 million jobs have already been shed this year, and some three-quarters of a million Americans are about to exhaust their limited unemployment-insurance benefits. By October, only 32 percent of unemployed Americans were receiving unemployment checks. To make matters worse, when Americans lose their jobs, they typically lose their health insurance, too. Meanwhile, 3.8 million homes are under foreclosure, and states are facing massive revenue shortfalls; without assistance, they will have to cut spending, plunging the economy deeper into recession.

Obama keeps people guessing on missile shield amid Russian threats
AFP/File/Stan Honda

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/0
6/AR2008110602997.html?hpid=
opinionsbox1

Obama Should Make Haste Slowly

November 7, 2008

Festina lente. Make haste slowly. That was the motto of the revolutionary-minded young Augustus who soon grasped that he needed to build upon Rome’s past, rather than dismantle it.

Amid the celebration of the historic victory of Barack Obama, the country should now quit the bickering, appreciate a fair and peaceful transference of power, and unite behind its new commander in chief.

By Victor David Hanson
The Washington Times

But in turn our new President Obama would do well to heed that ancient Roman wisdom, appreciating that the real world after Nov. 4 is not exactly the same as its frequent caricature during the hard-fought campaign.

John McCain promised to cut taxes on all. Mr. Obama promised to raise them on some. But neither plan fully appreciated that we are now buried deep under trillions of dollars of debt – and need both more revenue and less expenditure.

An Obama administration, like it or not, must cede to the laws of physics: America will have to pay down debt while not raising taxes too high at a time of recession. That balancing act will make it hard to borrow additional billions for more promised federal spending.

“Hope and change” may have implied an easy transition to our clean, cool solar and wind future. But for a while longer, America’s envisioned new electric cars will still require old-fashioned natural gas, coal and nuclear power to generate electricity to charge them.

Economic slowdown, conservation and public promises to drill more oil and natural gas have already helped to collapse world oil prices and saved us billions. And before we talk of ending the coal industry, we should thank our lucky stars that America has the world’s most plentiful supply of coal to transition us to alternate sources of energy.

We need more regulation of both Wall Street and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which all went feral and turned on us during both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Yet European leaders are faced with far worse financial meltdowns than we are – and their problems have nothing to do with American excess or George Bush.

The dollar is climbing against the Euro because market analysts realize that for all our sins, American financial institutions are still far less exposed than those elsewhere in the world, and our free-market system far more flexible to recover from excess and grow the economy.

Some have called for the Wall Street bailout to be just the first, rather than the last, large federal takeover of American finance. But again, we should remember that despite a looming recession, Americans are still collectively the most affluent and free citizens in the world – precisely because our unique free-market system creates enormous wealth and draws in more capital and talent than elsewhere on promises of commensurate individual rewards. President Obama need not give radical chemotherapy to an ill economy that does not have a fatal cancer.

The shooting war in Iraq is ending. President Obama can continue to withdraw American troops slowly on the basis of a growing victory, rather than rashly and harnessed to an artificial timetable. In time, a Democratic administration could assert that a constitutional government in Iraq and an unprecedented defeat of al Qaeda in the heart of the ancient caliphate enhanced U.S. security at home and abroad – and are achievements to be claimed rather than simply reckless acts to be abruptly abandoned.

For all the campaign charges of unfairness, America currently has the most progressive tax system in the world, in which the top 5 percent of wage earners pay over 60 percent of all federal income taxes. President Obama will raise rates, as promised. Yet he might consider that Americans in the past came to accept the Clinton income tax hike to 40 percent on the top bracket – but may well balk at adding unprecedented increases in payroll taxes on top of all that. That combination could mean a sizable tax raise on many of those self-employed who already pay nearly half their income in various taxes – and gut rather than just shear the sheep.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/
07/make-haste-slowly/

Great expectations: Obama will have to deliver

November 6, 2008

Over and over, Barack Obama told voters if they stuck with him “we will change this country and change the world.” They did, and now their expectations for him to deliver are firmly planted on his shoulders. Many supporters greeted his victory with euphoria.

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally at Bicentennial ... 
Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally at Bicentennial Park in Miami, Florida, October 21, 2008.(Jim Young/Reuters)

Impatient for a new American era and overcome by a black man’s historic ascension to the White House, they took his achievement for their own — weeping, dancing in the streets, blaring happy horns into Wednesday morning.

But campaign rhetoric soon collides with the gritty duties of governing, and hard realities stand in Obama’s way.

The youthful president-elect appears to know this. His victory speech emphasized humility far more than his fabled confidence, with remarks heavily leavened by references to the difficulties before the nation.

He declared “change has come to America” and closed with his “yes we can” campaign slogan, but not before speaking of the certainty of setbacks. “The road ahead will be long,” Obama warned. “We may not get there in one year or even one term.”

From the Associated Press
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081106/ap_
on_el_pr/obama_great_expectations;
_ylt=AhcxsnSdV0Xn5Jq4oLHKi72s0NUE

We Could Be In for a Lurch to the Left

November 4, 2008

There’s an old saying that politics in America is played between the 40 yard lines. What this means, for those unfamiliar with football, is that we’re a centrist country, never straying very far to the left or the right in elections or national policies. This has been true for decades. It probably won’t be after today’s election.

For the first time since the 1960s, liberal Democrats are dominant. They are all but certain to have a lopsided majority in the House, and either a filibuster-proof Senate or something close to it. If Barack Obama wins the presidency today, they’ll have an ideological ally in the White House.

A sharp lurch to the left and enactment of a liberal agenda, or major parts of it, are all but inevitable. The centrist limits in earlier eras of Democratic control are gone. In the short run, Democrats may be constrained by the weak economy and a large budget deficit. Tax hikes and massive spending programs, except those billed as job creation, may have to be delayed.

By Fred Barnes
The Wall Street Journal
.
But much of their agenda — the “card check” proposal to end secret ballots in union elections, the Fairness Doctrine to stifle conservative talk radio, liberal judicial nominees, trade restrictions, retreat from Iraq, talks with Iran — doesn’t require spending. And after 14 years of Republican control of Congress, the presidency, or both, Democrats are impatient. They want to move quickly.

Democrats had large majorities when Jimmy Carter became president in 1977 (61-38 in the Senate, 292-143 in the House) and when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 (56-44, 258-176). So why are their prospects for legislative success so much better now?

The most significant change is in the ideological makeup of the Democratic majorities. In the Carter and Clinton eras, there were dozens of moderate and conservative Democrats in Congress, a disproportionate number of them committee chairs. Now the Democratic majorities in both houses are composed almost uniformly of liberals. Those few who aren’t, including the tiny but heralded gang of moderates elected to the House in 2006, usually knuckle under on liberal issues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bosses them around like hired help.

In the past, senior Democrats intervened to prevent a liberal onslaught. Along with Republicans, they stopped President Carter from implementing his plan to pull American troops out of South Korea.

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122576065024095511.html