Nel's New Day

December 30, 2012

Buddhist Calls Norquist’s Pledge ‘Treasonous’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:32 PM
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It’s one day before the end of the year, and the GOP refuses to compromise on the tax cuts that take effect in a little over 24 hours. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Fox News that there would be no agreement without taking money away from the elderly and disabled by lowering Social Security.

Meanwhile Robert Thurman, noted Buddhist scholar, prolific author, respected academician, and one of Time’s most influential people of 1997, expressed his concern about Republicans refusal to raise any taxes because of their pledge to Grover Norquist. Thurman has made a video to explain how the pledge is seditious and treasonous. (Yes, Mr. Norquist, we understand that you claim the pledge is made to the constituents and not you, but there wouldn’t be a pledge without you.)

According to Thurman, those who have taken the anti-tax pledge, “have taken an oath to an outside organization which is not supported by the U.S. Constitution–which gives Congress the right to levy taxes, to do the work of the people through the government –but this is a non governmental organization, not elected by anybody and supported by big money people who are making money by not having to pay taxes.”

Thurman adds:

“And these people have signed a sworn oath that contradicts their oath of office. And therefore, in fact, they do have mental reservations, and they do have purpose of evasion and they are not sincerely taking their oath of office. And if they persist in that, and if they are held to that by this outside person who is not a member of the government, then they are, in fact, breaking their oath of office and they are not serving what they swore to serve the American people.”

Thurman also takes umbrage with Norquist’s rationale for the pledge: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” By their loyalty to Norquist, the pledge-takers become anarchists, agreeing that government is useless and that they should “starve the beast.” The beast reference, as defined by fundamentalists, refers to Satan in the Book of Revelations, “a very negative way of depicting the U.S. government,” Thurman said.

People have an obligation to their constituents. If they cannot compromise to keep the government successful, they have a serious and actionable conflict of interest—grounds for impeachment. Thurman said that they are “unfit for office.”

He concludes, “…they must, as a single body, reject their oath to Grover Norquist, renounce that oath in order to retake their oath of office; sincerely, without mental reservation, and without purpose of evasion; which is what they must do to be reinstated in our good graces, the people of the United States, of whom they are the employee.”

On this, the last Sunday of the year, the self-identified Christians in Congress, should pay attention to a Buddhist. Thurman wants to save the country; the GOP wants to destroy the country in order to keep their jobs.

December 29, 2012

Krauthammer Blames Obama

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:32 PM
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After twelve years of George W. Bush’s disastrous tax cuts, we’re still waiting for the solution to the country’s economic difficulties. With the deadline for raising all the taxes in the country a little more than 48 hours away, the Republicans are still playing politics, but the president is keeping to his word.

The GOP refuses to admit why Bush lowered the tax rates. His rationale was that the country was in such good fiscal shape that reducing the deficit even more would damage the economy. Thus he claimed that he would moderate this reduction.

In his first address to Congress (February 2001), the appointed president said that he would eliminate $2 trillion in debt over the next decade while keeping a “contingency fund” of $1 trillion for emergencies. At the same time he claimed that the country had “money left over” for a tax cut. At least one Republican understood that Bush’s approach was wrong. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits to go the most fortunate among us.”

Two years later the deficit was $378 billion. It was evident that the tax cuts plus the two unfunded Bush wars plus the housing bubble had begun to devastate the entire country. Any sensible person would recognize that Bush’s program had to be reversed. Yet the GOP denies that these were the causes.

These Bush problems decimated the country, but conservatives ask how long people can blame Bush. We can blame the country’s fiscal problems on Bush until the debt is paid off by the wealthy and not by those who failed to benefit from the advantages that the wealthy have during the last decade.

The United States is in the midst of four major struggles: allowing the wealthy to maintain their tax cuts; providing more money for defense as the wars wind down; stripping money from Social Security; Medicare, and Medicaid; and raising the debt ceiling.

The GOP has currently caused a stalemate because it wants to give money to the wealthy at the expense of the bottom 98 percent, pay for more excesses at the Pentagon, steal money from Social Security and Medicare funds, and refuse to pay their bills. The GOP has already taken the Social Security funds and doesn’t want to pay it back. Then they claim that refusing to pay the bills through increasing the debt ceiling will save money.

If you listen to Charles Krauthammer on Fox, President Obama is to blame for the stalemate. “[The president has] been using [the fiscal cliff talks]–and I must say with great skill, and ruthless skill and success–to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition. The only redoubt of the opposition is the House. And his objective from the very beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House, and to create an internal civil war. And he’s done that.”

If the problems with the GOP weren’t so serious, this accusation about the president would be laughable. The Republicans don’t need any help self-destructing; they’re managing just fine on their own, thank you very much. The Tea Party takeover has been going on far longer than this election, for example taking Indiana’s Dick Lugar out of the Senate and handing his Republican seat to a Democrat because of the weak candidate.

Even Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) wasn’t sure he would get re-elected, and now he’s so concerned about losing the Speaker position that he’s willing to see out the country. Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has the lowest approval rating in the country (37 percent) even by his personal poll. And performer Ashley Judd could defeat him!

After the Republican states did their gerrymandering magic, hyper-partisan districts provided a cult-like atmosphere in the GOP elite, frequently the ultra-conservatives. This resulted in a party that ignores the country’s evolution while it tries to return to a fantasy of life in the 1950s. They ignore the fact that the high taxes used to build the country’s infrastructure and the growing number of unions during that decade made the United States an economically successful country.

The GOP spent four years trying to get one job—the one that now belongs to the president for another term. He can’t run again, but the Republicans continue to have just that one target—the president’s job. With this intent, they have polarized the country in a manner reminiscent of the decades during the Civil War and its aftermath. Now Republicans believe they are in control of a government with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president.

Thank you, President Obama, for maintaining your resolve. May you continue to do so.

November 30, 2012

Filibuster, Fiscal Whatever

Less than three weeks before the end of the year, the Republicans are swarming like a disturbed colony of yellow jackets since the Democrats threatened to revise the filibuster process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of throwing a bomb in the Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid of breaking the rules. He forgot that it was the Republicans who decided seven years ago that Senate procedure could be changed through a simple majority on the first day of Congress every two years.

McConnell said, “It’s important to remember that the Senate hasn’t always functioned like it has the last two years, and the rules were exactly the same. We don’t have a rules problem, we have a behavior problem.” First, the Senate has behaved like this before the last two years. They’ve been like that for the last six years as the graph below shows. Second, McConnell doesn’t recognize that the “behavior problem” is on the side of the GOP.

With his back against the wall, McConnell wants to have a talk with Reid. They talked two years ago, and McConnell kept threatening and acting on the current filibuster rule. The GOP agreed to cooperate at the beginning of the 112th Congress and then immediately abandoned their promise.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has entered the fray, despite the fact that the filibuster concerns only the Senate. Yesterday he issued a statement in reference to the proposed changes to the filibuster rules:  “Any bill that reaches a Republican-led House based on Senate Democrats’ heavy-handed power play would be dead on arrival.” The threat is hollow: the House rejects anything that the Senate sends it anyway.

The statement also belies Boehner’s claim that he is “the most reasonable, responsible person” in Washington, as he recently identified himself. Last week, the Speaker said he will go after health care reform and hold the global economy hostage (again) until he gets what he wants but refuses to give any details on a debt-reduction proposal.

Boehner’s ravings are matched by these declarations that Scott Keyes found:

  • Worse than surrender in the Civil War: Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer:   “Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox and he lost the Civil War.”
  • Out of a fairytale: Writing in her Wall Street Journal column, Kimberley Strassel described the plan as “something out of Wonderland and Oz combined.”
  • “Nothing good can come of negotiating further”: RedState editor Erick Erickson told the GOP to pack up, go home, and take the country over the cliff.
  • “I’d walk out”: MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, claimed that President Obama’s proposal was made just to “provoke” House Republicans and that the GOP should just walk out.
  • “Congress should dive headlong off fiscal cliff”: Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson advised the GOP to “dive headlong off fiscal cliff. Republicans don’t have a lot of good choices right now. They might as well try it.” [They can do that and then let the 113th Congress try to deny lowering taxes on the bottom 98 percent!]

As for the fate of filibuster reform in the Senate, nine Democrats out of the 55 progressives haven’t said they will vote for the proposed changes. Fifty votes will create a majority if Vice President Joe Biden votes in favor of the changes.

I don’t know whether Senate Democrats will change the rules, but I do know that the Founding Fathers didn’t intend for one person in the Senate to declare a filibuster while he stretches out on his couch far away from the chamber. The Constitution has nothing to do with a filibuster to “protect the minority,” as McConnell claims.

In the Continental Congress, Rule 10, derived from British parliamentary practice, provides only for “calling the question” so that a simple majority can end debate. Authors of the Constitution felt that they had already protected the minority by providing each state with the same number of senators. Because Rule 10 was used so infrequently, Aaron Burr proposed dropping it in 1806, and the Senate did just that with a simple majority vote.

Thirty-some years later, either in 1837 or 1841, a few senators, similar in perversity to today’s Republicans, decided to just talk forever, holding the Senate hostage to an ultimatum of the minority. Yet there were only 33 filibusters in the 57 years between 1840 and 1917.

World War I led to a 23-day filibuster against a bill to arm American merchant ships so that they could protect themselves after a German U-Boat sank the Lusitania. Those 23 days led to the first cloture rule, a partial restoration of the 1806 vote to drop Rule 10. No Senate rule has ever “authorized” the filibuster. Instead rules have attempted to reign in the minority’s abuse of Senate procedure.

filibuster

This graph shows the number of “cloture” motions in every congressional session since 1919. Cloture is the procedure used to break a filibuster. Between 1919 and 1975, a successful cloture motion required two-thirds of the Senate. Today, it requires three-fifths, or, in cases where all 100 senators are present and voting, 60 votes.

The number of filibusters is not equivalent to the number of cloture because a large number of filibusters never receive a cloture vote either because it takes about 30 hours of floor time or because the party with fewer than 60 members won’t win. The important piece of the large number of cloture votes isn’t exactly how many but the indication that the filibuster is now a constant instead of a rarity.  Because of the filibuster, almost every action in the Senate needs 60 votes, ten votes over a simple majority.

Peter Carlson provides more information, albeit entertaining, in an article about the history of the filibuster. It may be funnier when the GOP stops trying to obstruct everything and starts working for the good of the United States.

Asides: Rachel Maddow has declared President Obama the Worst Socialist Ever.  As proof, she showed a chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, that post-tax corporate profits have almost tripled since George W. Bush’s crash of 2008.

corporate profits

After Boehner was ridiculed for the 19 white men he appointed to committee chairs for the 113th Congress, he found a woman to take care of the House—literally. As chair of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), who hasn’t served on that committee for several years, will be in charge of the House’s administrative business from whether the cafeterias should use paper or Styrofoam plates to benefits for congressional workers and the operation of the Library of Congress. Miller wished to chair the Homeland Security Committee, but that job went to a man—Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX).

It only took 23 days, but the last race for the 113th Congress has been called. Incumbent Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) won after Republican David Rouzer conceded.  Democrats have net gain of eight House seats for the 113th Congress, totaling 201 Democrats out of the 435 representatives in the House. The Senate has 55 progressive members compared to the 45 GOP senators.

November 28, 2012

Congress Gets More Dysfunctional

Yesterday’s blog included the bravery of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in crossing the conservative activist Grover Norquist when Chambliss said about the anti-tax pledge that he signed 20 years ago, “If we do it [Norquist’s]  way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.” Since then, Norquist seems to have gotten to Chambliss as shown by this tweet: “ I’m not in favor of tax increases. I’m in favor of significant tax reform 2 lower tax rates & generate additional revenue through job growth.” He must have gotten protests from his campaign funders.  

Each day—in fact each hour—the bipartisan budget agreement from August 2011 takes another twist. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who walked off the Simpson-Bowles debt commission before it could come up with a way to solve the deficit, has been named as negotiator for the fiscal cliff. Is House Speaker John Boehner trying to scuttle all Ryan’s chances of being a 2016 presidential candidate with this appointment?

My personal theory, and hope, is that with the intransigent Ryan—and the other Republicans pushed by Norquist—all negotiations will fail before the end of the year. The higher taxes will then go into effect on the first of January when Democrats will propose a bill to reduce taxes for everyone under $250,000. The question then is whether Republicans will vote against lowering taxes for the American people.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), appointed by President Obama to lead the commission with Erskine Bowles, has promised to protect Congressmen who separate themselves from Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge through donations from his Campaign to Fix the Debt. Simpson predicted that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) would come under attack for backing entitlement. He didn’t promise, however, to protect the Democrat. Durbin is up for re-election in 2014.

Not that the GOP ever listens to the populace, but their political leaders should check out this chart showing what people in the United States want from the solution to the “fiscal cliff.” In short, voters want higher tax rates for the wealthy and no increase in the age to receive Social Security. Although more evenly split on limiting tax deductions, they still don’t want to do this. Even fewer self-identified Republicans and conservatives want the age for Social security to be raised (29 percent) than self-identified liberals (30 percent).

At the same time the Susan Rice debacle has worsened now that supposedly moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-MA) entered the fray against her to force the appointment of John Kerry for Secretary of State. Quelle surprise! She, too, has always been supportive of Scott Brown, going so far as to campaign for him this fall. Like other Republicans, she likely believes that taking Kerry out of the Senate will leave the space wide open for Scott Brown whose term for Massachusetts senator ends in 33 days.

The problem with all the GOP kerfuffle is that the Democrats are getting irritated. In the last election, people may have voted because they were told they couldn’t; the same thing may happen with the selection for Secretary of State if Rice gets votes because the GOP is providing all this unwarranted opposition toward her.

The only way that the Republicans can keep a Democratic choice from becoming Secretary of State is by filibustering. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he has enough Democratic votes to change the filibuster guidelines on the first day of the 113th Congressional session. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is threatening to delay fiscal cliff decisions if the Democrats suggest the filibuster changes, but the minority leader has a very bad record for keeping his promises. After McConnell persuaded Reid to not support filibuster changes two years ago, Republicans filibustered 70 times. McConnell has promised to “shut down” the Senate if the Democrats carry through with their filibuster reform, but it appears that the GOP has consistently done with during the last six years with 386 filibusters.

There would have been more filibusters, but Democrats didn’t even try to take action because of the GOP threats. The lack of bills passed during the past two years in the U.S. Senate demonstrates the high level of dysfunction there: in the 112th Congress, the Senate passed a record low of 2.8 percent of bills introduced, 66 percent fewer than in 2005-2006 and a 90-percent decrease from the high during 1955-1956.

One Republican, Johnny Isakson (R-GA) disagrees with McCain when he called Rice “not very bright” and with other Republicans when they called her “incompetent.” During a CNN interview with Soledad O’Brien this morning, Isakson said, “What you don’t want to do is shoot the messenger. [Rice] is a very smart, very intelligent woman. I know this Ms. Rice, I think she’s done a good job as Ambassador to the U.N.”

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/11/28/15510226-mccain-descends-further-into-incoherence  While Collins is out simply lobbying against Rice, John McCain has gone over the edge in yesterday’s interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News.

“[W]ho changed the talking points that was used by Ambassador Rice? And why? And on what circumstances? Why was reference to Al Qaeda left out? There are so many things that have happened. And the interesting thing is, finally, Neil, we knew within hours of all the details when we got bin Laden in the raid there, every bitty one of them. They are making a movie out of it.”

As Times’ Joe Klein wrote,

“[McCain is] now a political caricature, severely debilitated by anger and envy. His trigger-happy foreign policy beliefs have always been questionable, but this Benghazi crusade has put in the weird circle inhabited by nutcases and conspiracy theorists like Michele Bachmann and Allen West. He should honor the memory of those who lost their lives that terrible night by putting a cork in his disgraceful behavior immediately.”

The linchpin during the next three weeks is President Obama. The question is whether he will nominate Rice, Kerry, or someone else. And what will happen between the president and Paul Ryan? Will Ryan just walk out on the negotiations the way that he did on the Simpson-Bowles debt commission? Will Ryan pull a Sarah Palin?

November 27, 2012

Congress Ignores Job, Economy Issues

Since Election Day, many of the nation’s populace have focused on what will happen to the bipartisan fiscal agreement from August 2011 that kept the United States from defaulting on the national debt which would have crashed the entire country. The conditions of this agreement were supposed to be changed a year ago, but the bitter partisan fighting stopped this from happening. With no compromise before the end of 2012, taxes revert to the time of Bill Clinton (when, by the way, we had a great economy), a situation that the media likes to call the “fiscal cliff.”

During a meeting with the president ten days after Election Day,  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) informed President Obama that the fiscal cliff is “my leverage.” During this discussion Boehner threatened to not agree to the president’s proposal if the speaker’s demands weren’t meant.

Since the election, Republicans have admitted that they are willing to create new revenue, despite the anti-tax pledge that most of them signed with conservative activist Grover Norquist. In return, however, they want to hack at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Once again, conservatives are using their typical tactic of fear and ploy of extortion.

In fact, there might not be a real crisis. CBO has adjusted its forecast with the result that the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years. Social Security etc. are not part of businesses required to make a profit; reasonable management of health care costs will keep Medicare and Medicaid expenditures within control. Military spending should decrease as the country leaves its warmongering.

President Obama’s proposal regarding taxes is to keep the Bush cuts for everyone who makes under $250,000. Republicans like to refer to the people above this amount—only two percent of the population—as job creators. They aren’t. To see that there is no relationship between private-sector employment and tax cuts, just look at this employment since 2001. The only reason that employment gained during George W. Bush’s first term was the 800,000 increase in public sector.

Because Republicans like to control by fear, they don’t tell people that everyone in the country keeps the Bush tax cuts on the first $250,000 that they make, even the top two percent.

Republicans are truly caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and both of these are in their own political party. If they try to look at all reasonable and break their pledge for no new taxes, the Tea Party backs a candidate that might defeat long-time incumbents. This was the case with Dick Lugar in Illinois during the last primary. The situation is even more dire with the Democratic wins in the most recent election. The big question right now: do Republicans agree with providing revenue to the country, the way that 70 percent of the population wants, or do they please Tea Party members with the Norquist approach of no tax increases–ever.

Last week Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), up for reelection in two years, broke with Norquist, by saying that addressing the nation’s looming “fiscal cliff” takes precedence over honoring the anti-tax pledge. “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”

Chambliss is also a supporter of the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. In return for these drastic measures against the middle class, the plan raises some revenue by closing a few token tax loopholes and reducing the popular mortgage interest deduction. Like other Republicans, Chambliss could vote to close small loopholes in the tax code while raising the retirement age for Social Security, cap overall spending for Medicare, and dramatically lowering corporate tax rates.

Up for re-election in two years, Chambliss could attract moderates in a primary against a Tea Party candidate by supporting more revenue. It would also get him funding from lobbyists for his election campaign because they want to destroy the safety net and keep corporate taxes low.

On Sunday’s talk shows Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he could reject the pledge if Democrats would reform entitlements (aka roll back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), and Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) said the pledge may be out of step in the present economy. Monday morning, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told CBS’s Charlie Rose that he, too, was “not obligated on the pledge.”

While millions of words are being devoted these days to the fiscal cliff or hill or curb, McCain and others are leading the media into an obsessive reporting about Susan Rice’s lack of information about the Benghazi disaster. Rational people know that Rice reported what she was told on the Sunday after four men were killed at the embassy. Since then the Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his sycophant Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), have pilloried Rice. Graham said she shouldn’t have said anything, knowing that this would have made the situation worse.

Sunday said that he wouldn’t not have necessarily block Rice for the position of Secretary of State and asked for a meeting with her. After today’s meeting with the three loudest critics—McCain, Ayotte, and Graham—all of them said that “they were more disturbed than before the meeting.”

What is the reason behind the opposition? Senators indicate that they prefer John Kerry to Rice as Secretary of State. The choice may have two primary reasons. First, Kerry is a white man, much preferred by Congressional Republicans. To see the Republicans’ lack of diversity, check out the new committee leaders in the House–19 white men.

Second, if Kerry were to be appointed to this position, Massachusetts would need a new senator. After his loss to Elizabeth Warren, the current Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown, is in a prime position to win the election, adding one more Republican to the 45 already in the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

Meanwhile Congress ignores the need to improve jobs and economy while Republicans continue to oppose any benefits for the 99 percent of the country’s population.

September 10, 2012

Congress Returns–Briefly

The conventions are history, and Congress returns from its five-week vacation to go back into session today, at least for a few days. With almost 500 federal lawmakers up for re-election in 56 days, they’ll be gone in October to campaign, but they may disappear for part of September too.

Well-known for their procrastination and lack of commitment, Republicans need to get cracking on their six-month stopgap spending bill to keep the government functioning. House plans are to start today with a vote by Thursday. They can waste more time by discussing this again in another six months.

Federal farm programs are also due to expire on September 30, 2012, unless Congress does something about renewing them. The spending bill could include this extension, but food stamps are part of farm bill which might cause another stalemate. The Senate passed a five-year agriculture program last June, but as usual the House Republicans are dragging their collective feet especially with the disagreement about how much to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans may also let the farm bill expire so that they can blame the Democrats—as they do for everything—hoping to get more votes from farm states like Iowa.

Everyone might be better off if Congress does nothing about the farm bill. With no formal extension, food stamp and other nutrition programs continue, and most farmers will not be affected because the current farm bill covers 2012 crops no matter when they are harvested.

At the end of the week, the House Republicans will waste more time with a promised vote on the “No More Solyndras Act” bill which eliminates loan guarantees for solar and wind energy companies. The Senate probably won’t vote on it, but the House Republicans can look as if they’re doing something.

Meanwhile, the Senate may vote tomorrow about whether to debate a bill from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to get jobs for veterans. It includes a veterans jobs corps to employ veterans as firefighters and police officers and in fields of conservation, recreation, and resource management projects on public lands. Republicans will push for an open amendment process for this bill to add everything including tax cuts. If they don’t get to do this, they may sulk and filibuster.

Some economists have warned of a recession without any Congressional action on a combination of the expiration of all Bush tax cuts and the impending across-the-board spending cuts. Again the two parties have opposing views. Republicans say they want everyone to have tax cuts, and Democrats want to renew them only for households netting less than $250,000 a year.

Another potential amendment could be replacing automatic defense spending cuts, known as sequestration, set to begin in 2013. Both parties agreed to these cuts last summer during the debacle of the debt ceiling crisis if a committee could not come to agreement regarding how to fix the deficit. Mitt Romney said yesterday that the Republicans were wrong to vote for this and blamed it all on the president. Romney’s VP pick, Paul Ryan, was one of those “wrong” voters although he’s tried to lie his way out of the situation. In an interview, Ryan said that he voted for the bill that did the cutting, but he did not vote for the cuts.

While disturbed about the defense cuts, military leaders, unlike Republicans, understand that the budget needs revenues as well as cuts. “I hope we can find a way to address the sequestration threat of Jan. 1,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in Charlotte, N.C., where Democrats held their convention last week.  “It has to be done on a bipartisan basis … [and] it has to include revenues as well as spending cuts.”

Other pressing business for the lame-duck session include averting a 30-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare fees, passing the annual Pentagon policy bill, improving cyber security for the nation’s critical infrastructure, a Russia free-trade bill, and legislation to reform the Postal Service which may have to default on a $5.5 billion payment into its pension fund to cover people retiring 75 years from now.

Congress this year has managed to pass just 61 bills, the fewest number in more than 60 years. Last year, they passed 90 bills, down from 258 during the previous year. The average worker in the country has a median household income of about $50,000 compared to lawmakers’ salaries of $174,000 or more. At the same time, the average worker has 13 days of paid vacation; lawmakers have more than four months of recesses this year.

I’m waiting for the next anti-women bill from the Republicans. They’ve tried one each week during the 112th Congress.

Asides: On Meet the Press yesterday, Ann Romney said, “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives. But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle.” This is a very different struggle from her description of it just two weeks ago in her speech at the GOP convention.

According to a study by Harvard economics professor David Cutler, the increased costs for seniors in the changes of Medicare would move as much as $16 to $26 billion to profits for insurance companies. Romney tried to discredit the study by saying that Cutler was once an advisor for President Obama.

The Associated Press FactCheck failed when it evaluated Joe Biden’s statement that 4.5 private-sector jobs have been created during the past 29 months. They agreed that this information was true but gave it a half-true because it omitted the time before that and didn’t include the 500,000+ jobs lost in the public sector. If fact checkers can’t based their opinions on facts, they should quit. Also small-government advocates complaining about unemployment should realize that they are getting what they ask for. Smaller government means less employment; the loss of public sector jobs during the current president is equivalent to the jobs that George W. Bush added during his eight years.

Ideally voting should be based on information, which makes the level of ignorance throughout the country truly frightening. A prime example of this comes a question in a recent Ohio poll about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney deserves more credit for killing Osama bin Laden. (Some people may remember that Romney sneered at President Obama for his decision to find bin Laden, indicating that it was a waste of time.) Only 63 percent of possible voters gave the credit to the president; 6 percent thought Romney did it, and 31 percent didn’t know. The women were 2 percent more knowledgeable than men, and 86 percent of African-Americans knew it was the president compared to only 60 percent of Anglo-Americans. Only 38 percent of likely voters gave the president credit for killing Osama bin Laden, and the North Carolina percentage was lower at 29 percent. Frightening!

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