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Obama, Clinton to world: Support the gay agenda

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By Anne Gearan and Julie Pace December 7, 2011 7:30 am

GENEVA (AP) – The Obama administration bluntly warned the world against gay and lesbian discrimination Tuesday, declaring the U.S. will use foreign assistance as well as diplomacy to back its insistence that gay rights are fully equal to other basic human rights.

In unusually strong language, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton compared the struggle for gay equality to difficult passages toward women’s rights and racial equality, and she said a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination.

“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said. “It should never be a crime to be gay.”

Clinton’s audience included diplomats from Arab, African and other nations where homosexuality is criminalized or where brutality and discrimination against gay people is tolerated or encouraged.

Many of the ambassadors in the audience responded with stony faces and rushed out of the room as soon as Clinton finished speaking.

President Barack Obama directed the State Department and other agencies to make sure U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote gay rights and fight discrimination. But there are no specific new consequences for poor performers, meaning the directive is more of a challenge to other governments than a threat.

In announcing the policy the U.S. did not point to individual countries with specifically poor records on gay rights, although an annual State Department accounting of global human rights has cited abuses against gays by such friends as Saudi Arabia.

The White House said Tuesday’s announcement marked the first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad.

The speech in Geneva, home of the United Nations’ human rights body, is also part of the Obama administration’s outreach to gays and lesbians, a core Democratic constituency at home. Since taking office, Obama has advocated the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members — now accomplished — and has ordered the administration to stop defending a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

However, Obama has stopped short of backing gay marriage, saying only that his personal views on the matter are evolving. That position and a long delay repealing the military ban have left some gay supporters disgruntled.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney suggested that gay rights should not be a test for U.S. engagement abroad.

“I will be looking (at) foreign aid, whether it meets our national security interests and, number two, whether these nations are friends of ours and are willing to be friendly with us in ways when it matters the most,” he said on Fox News Channel.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry went further.

“Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money,” a Perry campaign statement said.

Clinton said she knows the United States has an imperfect record on gay rights, and she noted that until 2003 some states had laws on the books that made gay sex a crime. But there is no reason to suggest that gay rights are something only liberal, Western nations can or should embrace, she said. She said nothing about gay marriage.

“Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world,” Clinton said. “Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.”

In her most direct challenge to nations with conservative cultural or religious mores, Clinton catalogued abuses such as targeted killings of gays, “corrective rape” of lesbians or forced hormone treatments. She likened the targeting of gays for mistreatment to “honor killings” of women, widow-burning or female genital mutilation, examples of practices the U.S. decries but has not penalized friends including Afghanistan for carrying out.

“Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition,” she said. “But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal.”

She also compared the evolution of cultural attitudes toward homosexuality to the changing view of slavery.

“What was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights,” she said.

The audience included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists who applauded loudly and whooped in approval when Clinton finished.

Some of the diplomats who were invited were unaware of the topic beforehand, and Clinton introduced her subject gingerly. She said she knew it was sensitive and cut against ingrained traditions and expectations.

“Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all citizens and persuading your people to do the same,” she said.

In the memorandum issued in Washington, Obama directed U.S. agencies working abroad, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to use foreign aid to assist gays and lesbians who are facing human rights violations. And he ordered U.S. agencies to protect vulnerable gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers.

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said in a statement.

Gay rights groups praised the order as a significant step for ensuring that gays and lesbians are treated equally around the world.

“Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organization.

Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

Kincaid: Gingrich Charge of a Socialist America Confirmed

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By Cliff Kincaid     December 7, 2011 2:00 pm     

Democrats say they have dirt on Newt Gingrich, but he has the dirt on them. He has accurately described the socialist infiltration of America: “The Left has thoroughly infiltrated nearly every cultural commanding height of our civilization. That is, they hold power, influence and control of academia, the elite news media, Hollywood, union leaders, trial lawyers, the courts, the Congress, and the bureaucracy at all levels of government. They are radically redefining our very culture by deciding what is news, what is entertainment, what our children learn in school, and what kind of government we should have.”

When Gingrich made this charge, the left-wing scandal sheet Politico reacted with alarm, as if Gingrich had crossed the line of respectable discourse. But the publication was not able to rebut his assertion.

Confirmation of Gingrich’s statement, which came in an article about his book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, has come from an unlikely source—John Nichols, a writer for The Nation magazine. Speaking to the recent Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) conference, Nichols said that the progressive movement is on the move, citing Big Labor’s organizing efforts in several states, and indicated that the 2012 elections will continue this process of revolutionary change.

According to the Nichols book, The “S” Word, America’s socialist legacy included founding father Thomas Paine. The “S” stands for socialism, “an American tradition,” Nichols claims. And this, he said, is America’s future.

But not so fast. Professor Harvey J. Kaye, the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, wrote the bookThomas Paine: Firebrand of the Revolution, which is popular with the so-called “progressives.” He says that while Paine had some radical ideas about poverty and government assistance, “He was not a socialist; he did not contest the right of the propertied to their property.”

Indeed, in his Rights of Man, Paine recognized the inalienable rights to property, liberty, security, and resistance to oppression. Private property, which communists want to abolish, was the cornerstone of the American system. America’s founding was a repudiation of socialist ideas.

While Nichols is wrong about the socialism of Tom Paine, his point about the march of socialism in the U.S. is not something that can be so easily dismissed. Nichols’ book, as well as another controversial book, Lincoln’s Marxists, describes the determined activities of socialists in America in the 1800s. They have always looked for an opening to advance their un-American ideas on American soil. Over the last three years, Obama has been their vehicle in the White House.

The problem for Nichols is that, despite his own openness about wanting to be part of Obama’s socialist transformation of America, the effort has used deceptive practices and tactics and associates with sworn enemies of the United States. Nichols says he owes a debt to his late friend, Howard Zinn, a “historian” who concealed his involvement in the Moscow-funded Communist Party until his FBI file confirmed his secret life. The revelations have not caused “progressives” like Nichols to have any second thoughts about their admiration for Zinn.

The socialist-communist alliance, which backed Obama from the start of his political career in Chicago, has been making strides. “Polls tell us that democratic socialism is more popular today that at any time in recent American history,” Nichols says. He cites polls that 20-25 percent of Americans view socialism positively, with the number at 43 percent among those ages 18-29. The polls also find that Americans are increasingly critical of the capitalist system that made America the envy and target of the rest of the world.

Yahoo News noted that pollster Frank Luntz is advising Republicans on how to respond to the coverage generated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and that he is “frightened to death” because “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

Luntz is referring to the sympathetic coverage of the movement, standing in sharp contrast to the media’s demonization of the Tea Party.

Luntz is telling Republican politicians not to even talk about capitalism being a superior economic and political system. “I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’” Luntz said. “The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral.”

This state of affairs requires a media that will tell the truth about how socialists, who are increasingly out of the closet these days and supported by billionaire George Soros, are distorting America’s founding and transforming the United States into something it was never intended to be. It is the struggle that will decide the future of America.

The Gingrich book, To Save America, addresses the subversive role being played by George Soros and other rich liberal billionaires such as Herb and Marion Sandler, who have funded such left-wing media operations as ProPublica. This is the group that just announced a “cooperative newsgathering and reporting arrangement” with NBC owned television stations around the U.S. ProPublica’s “partners” already include such outlets as ABC News, The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, CBS News, CNN, The Huffington Post and public broadcasting’s Frontline.

For his part, John Nichols gives credit in his book to the support given to him by MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, Wisconsin Public Radio, and MSNBC host Chris Hayes, among others.

If the liberal media will not tell the truth, and if the conservative media do not have the ability to make the case for capitalism and freedom, politicians such as Newt Gingrich may have to do so in the context of a presidential campaign. His challenge will be to survive the personal attacks from the machine that he attacks.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org.

Obama administration refuses to relax Plan B restrictions

By ,

The federal government Wednesday rejected a request to let young teenage girls buy the controversial morning-after pill Plan B directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves without a prescription.In a rare public split among federal health officials, the Health and Human Services Department overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to make the drug available to anyone of any age without a restriction.

In a statement, FDA Administrator Margaret A. Hamburg said she had decided the medication could be used safely by girls and women of all ages. But she added that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had rejected the move.

“I agree … there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential,” Hamburg said.“However, this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential,” she said.

In a separate statement and letter to Hamburg, Sebelius said she overruled the FDA because she had concluded that data submitted by the company that makes the drug did not “conclusively establish” that it could be used safely by girls of all ages.

“About 10 percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age. It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age,” Sebelius said. “If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age.”

The surprising decision is a stunning blow to some doctors, health advocates, family-planning activists, members of Congress and others who backed relaxing the restrictions to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“We are outraged that this administration has let politics trump science,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. “There is no rationale for this move. This is unprecedented as evidenced by the commissioner’s own letter. Unbelievable.”

Susan F. Wood of George Washington University, who resigned from the FDA in 2005 because of delays in relaxing restrictions on Plan B, said she was “beyond stunned” by the decision.

“There is no rationale that can justify HHS reaching in and overturning the FDA on the decision about this safe and effective contraception,” Wood said. “I never thought I’d see this happen again.”

Opponents had urged the agency to reject the move, saying such a decision would expose girls and women to potential risks from taking high doses of a potent hormone, interfere with parents’ ability to monitor their children and make it easier for men to prey on vulnerable minors.

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Obamateurism of the Day


Remember when Barack Obama blamed unemployment on ATMs?  Yesterday in Kansas, the President reiterated that a 40-year-old technology that has been in wide usage since he was in college is a cause for unemployment today — and just in case no one buys that, Obama decided to blame another technological advancement, too:

“Layoffs too often became permanent, not part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the internet,”      President Obama said at a campaign event in Kansas.

RCP also has the video.  Now, my recollection of a good economy and low unemployment may be fuzzy — it’s been a few years — but as I recall, the Internet was in full swing five years ago, when the unemployment rate was 4.4% and the civilian participation rate in the workforce was 66.4%.  The Internet actually provided a marketplace that employed plenty of people back then — and still does today.  And we had quite a few ATMs that year, too.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at obamaisms@edmorrissey.com with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!


Election 2012: Generic Presidential Ballot

Election 2012: Generic Republican 49%, Obama 41%

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A generic Republican candidate now holds an eight-point advantage over President Obama in a hypothetical Election 2012 matchup for the week ending Sunday, December 4. This is the largest gap measured between the two since early September.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds the generic Republican earning 49% support to Obama’s 41%.  Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.


Patton: Throwing Good Money After Bad

By Doug Patton December 6, 2011 7:59 am

The Los Angeles Times is impressed with the patriotism of Atanacio Garcia. The paper reports that for the last two years, the 84-year-old San Antonio, Texas, veteran and retired postal worker has been sending fifty dollars a month of his pension money to Washington, DC. For what possible purpose? To reduce the national debt.

“I’m a believer in our country,” says Garcia, a father of five who has lived for decades in the same two-bedroom home, and who collects aluminum cans for extra money. He says he intends to contribute “until the debt is paid or until I die.” He also admits that he usually votes Democrat.

Fifty years ago, when America’s national debt was a paltry $300 billion, President John F. Kennedy established a fund to allow Americans to contribute to its reduction. Since then, Kennedy’s successors, Democrats and Republicans alike (although Dems are currently far in the lead in the race to turn America into Greece), have spent so much more of our tax money than they were allotted that most of us can no longer even comprehend the amounts.

As author and columnist Mark Steyn has observed, “Trillion used to be a term used by Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking to describe the distance to far-off galaxies. Now, it’s become a common part of our daily discussions of the federal budget!”

Running such staggering numbers can be instructive, however, once you figure out how many zeros there are in a billion (nine) and a trillion (twelve). Consider this: Mr. Garcia donates $50 per month, or $600 per year, to the fund. At that rate, it would take him 2,500,000,000 years just to pay off this year’s deficit. That’s two billion, five hundred million years! And that would be with no interest added on.

Put another way, it would take Garcia nearly seven million years to pay off what our government will spend today over and above what it takes in.

Of course, the well-intentioned Mr. Garcia is not alone in his desire to help reduce the national debt by sending in his own money. The Times story reports that “hundreds of public-spirited Americans have sent money, from pocket change to million-dollar checks.” The Bureau of Public Debt claims that individual donations over the years have ranged from a single penny to $3.5 million.

Time for some more hard, cold math. Since JFK signed that legislation a half-century ago, $83 million has been collected. Sounds impressive, right? I don’t know about you, but eighty-three million dollars still looks like a lot of money to me. Not in Washington, where our elected officials rack up debt faster than the Obamas rack up vacation miles on Air Force One. When that entire $83 million — so lovingly sent in over the last 50 years by well-meaning little old ladies and patient patriots like Atanacio Garcia — is applied to the debt, it covers approximately 30 minutes of the annual deficit created by this government.

Which brings us around to the hypocrisy of billionaires like Warren Buffett, whose calls for higher taxes on the mega-rich are really just calls for higher taxes on the middle class. Because, you see, there are not enough rich people to make a dent in the national debt. In fact, confiscating every dime 81-year-old Warren Buffett has accumulated over a lifetime of work would fund Barack Obama’s bloated bureaucracy for less than a week! And Buffett knows it. Which is why he won’t write that big check.

My advice to Mr. Garcia and anyone else contemplating throwing good money after bad: give it to your favorite charity. Give it to your church. Give it to a homeless shelter supported by private donations. Give it to your family. Stop giving it to the government. I cannot think of a worse waste of revenue than sending it to the bottomless pit of quicksand that is Washington, DC. You would be better off burning it. That’s what they will do with it.

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors. Astute supporters and inane detractors alike are encouraged to e-mail him with their pithy comments at dougpatton@cox.net.

Obama admin backs ambassador after anti-Semitism comments

By Bradley Klapper December 6, 2011 7:22 am

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration says it has full confidence in the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, despite comments he made about anti-Semitism that prompted angry responses from Jewish groups and Republicans.

Howard Gutman, who is Jewish and whose father survived the Holocaust, told a European Jewish gathering last week that some hatred of Jews reflected hostility toward Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. He said it was different from traditional anti-Semitism.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that Gutman would remain in his post.

Toner said Gutman spoke as ambassador, yet expressed his own views. He declined to say if the administration disagreed with those views.

The White House on Saturday condemned anti-Semitism in all forms. Gutman did as well.

Jewish groups expressed outrage. Some Republican presidential candidates have demanded Gutman’s resignation.

The Gingrich Buzz

By Beth Fouhy and Shannon McCaffrey December 6, 2011 7:23 am

NEW YORK (AP) – Surging in opinion polls, a confident Newt Gingrich declared Monday he plans to challenge Barack Obama in every state next year, and he began running a gauzy TV ad — his first — to push toward the Republican nomination to take on the president. But, illustrating how far he has to go, Gingrich also found himself defending the state of his campaign and his own comments about poor children.

“I do not suggest children until about 14 or 15 years of age do heavy, dangerous janitorial work,” Gingrich told reporters. “On the other hand, there are a number of things done to clean buildings that are not heavy or dangerous.”

He’s drawn fire over the past week for suggesting that poor children as young as 9 should work at least part time cleaning their schools in order to learn about work.

As Gingrich volunteers scrambled in some states to meet deadlines to get his name on ballots, the candidate dismissed the notion that his team wasn’t up to the task of waging a credible challenge against the better-funded, better-organized Mitt Romney. “We run a very decentralized campaign,” Gingrich insisted. “The system works.”

With only one month until the first presidential votes are cast, the GOP race has seemed to narrow to a contest between Gingrich and Romney.

Each spent the day wooing donors, Gingrich on the East Coast and Romney on the West Coast, as the hunt for cash intensified ahead of the string of costly contests that begin Jan. 3 in Iowa. The two will cross paths Wednesday as the candidates all convene in Washington to court Jewish voters and again Saturday at a debate in Iowa, the first of three planned for December.

This one is shaping up as a pivotal debate, given that Gingrich’s recent comeback has been fueled largely by a string of strong performances in which he demonstrated policy expertise and was able to appear statesmanlike while steering clear of criticizing his GOP rivals. He is the latest GOP candidate to enjoy a burst of momentum and he’s working to prove that, unlike the others who have risen and fallen, he’s a serious contender with staying power.

To that end, Monday was supposed to be a day for the former U.S. House speaker to capitalize on Herman Cain’s departure from the race and his own soaring poll numbers, making a good showing for up-for-grabs tea party supporters.

He chose heavily Democratic New York City to announce plans to campaign all across the country — not just in traditionally Republican or swing states — next fall against Obama. He packed the rest of the day with fundraisers and meetings, including one with Donald Trump, who flirted with a presidential bid himself and has sought to play a role in the GOP selection process.

But Gingrich’s expected show of force didn’t go exactly as planned, and the day ended up underscoring the challenges he now faces since going from the back of the pack to the front.

Twice on Monday he tried to explain what he had meant about poor kids working.

He said his original point had been “distorted” to make him look insensitive. The idea, Gingrich said, would be “to get them into the world of work, get them into the opportunity to earn money, to get them into the habit of showing up and realizing that effort is rewarded and America is all about the work ethic.”

He said he had persuaded Trump to mentor a group of children from New York City’s poorest schools.

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Trump, who hosts the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.” ”We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children and make them ‘apprenti.’ We’re going to have a little fun with it.”

While praising Gingrich, Trump said he would wait to endorse a candidate until after he hosts a debate in late December.

In Iowa, Gingrich’s campaign rolled out a 60-second ad that projected sunny optimism.

“Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past. I don’t believe that, because working together I know we can rebuild America,” Gingrich says in the ad that’s laden with Americana, down to a white picket fence, the Statue of Liberty and the American Stars and Stripes.

But there were signs, in Iowa, that Gingrich’s personal and professional background was starting to become an issue in the campaign.

A group called Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government is circulating a new Web video reminding Republicans that Gingrich once appeared with then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to advocate action on climate change. Pelosi, a Democrat, is widely loathed among Republican activists, many of whom do not believe there is proof that human activity has caused climate change and oppose many efforts to regulate carbon emissions.

The same group circulated fliers earlier in the year criticizing the thrice-married Gingrich for his divorces.

Elsewhere, Gingrich’s organizational struggles to catch up with his rivals were coming to light.

He has already missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in Missouri, which holds its primary Feb. 7. He insisted Monday that he did not plan to compete in that contest because the state was stripped of its delegates after it moved its primary in violation of Republican rules.

The troubles are perhaps most urgent in Ohio, where candidates face a Wednesday deadline to submit between 50 and 150 signatures from registered Republicans from each of the state’s 16 congressional districts.

“Newt Gingrich will not be on the Ohio Primary ballot in 2012 unless we take immediate action,” read a Saturday email with the subject line, “Emergency” from a Gingrich organizer to Ohio Republicans. The message gave potential delegates just 24 hours to travel to the Gingrich headquarters to sign required forms.

And there’s no indication that Gingrich’s team has begun to gather signatures to meet deadlines in such states as Virginia, Illinois and Indiana, all of which are due in the next several weeks.

In New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first primary Jan. 10, Gingrich’s newly assembled team last month failed to submit a list of 20 supporters to serve as potential delegates to the GOP’s national convention. It was largely a symbolic submission, but one that candidates take seriously to reward top local supporters.

Gingrich’s staff, however, rounded up just 14 names scratched on state forms in messy handwriting. The other serious candidates submitted typed forms with a full slate of delegates. And former state GOP chairman Fergus Cullen suggests the incident “could signal a lack of basic organization.”

On Monday, Gingrich defended his bare-bones approach as one that reflects efficiencies that businesses have adopted to make them run more efficiently over a consultant-heavy approach that’s “slow, cumbersome and expensive.”

His approach could be more from necessity; as of Sept. 30, his campaign was in the red.

McCaffrey reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in New Hampshire, Tom Beaumont in Iowa and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.

Obama’s missed opportunity on the debt

By , Published: December 4

Fred Hiatt

So after all the talk about fiscal balance and responsible choices, the pre-Christmas rush in Washington has come down to this: one more belly-up to the middle-class tax-cut bar.

If, as seems likely, enough Republicans manage to overcome their sometime scruples and join President Obama before last call, Washington will prove once more that bipartisanship is alive and well — as long as it is in the service of digging the deficit hole deeper.

With unemployment at 8.6 percent, extending the payroll tax cut for another year is the right thing to do.

The problem lies in it being the only fiscal accomplishment of the Christmas season.

In principle, Obama has other items on his wish list. He’d like to extend unemployment benefits. Pay for those and the tax cuts, too. Build more roads and keep more teachers and police officers on the job. Even, in theory, reduce the long-term debt. After all, the mantra is short-term stimulus, long-term balance, restore confidence.

But the president has drawn only one line in the sand, issued only one non-negotiable demand, insisted on only one achievement without which he will fight Congress going home for the holidays: extending the payroll tax cut.

His rhetoric risks transforming this giveaway, like so many “temporary” giveaways before it, into something permanent. This one was supposed to be different, because it siphons money from the supposedly sacrosanct Social Security trust fund.

Now, though, Obama says anyone favoring a return to normal is voting for an unconscionable tax hike on the struggling middle class. His logic will fit nicely into Grover Norquist’s narrative a year from now when the Bush tax cuts, including on the wealthy, are due to expire.

I asked an administration official what level of unemployment would justify an end to the Social Security tax break — 7.5 percent? 7 percent? I didn’t get a direct answer. It seems unlikely that anyone, a year from now, will argue that working Americans no longer need a break.

But the official said the problem can be worked out as part of a larger package of tax reform.

Tax reform is the answer to all problems, for Republicans and Democrats alike. We’ll “close the loopholes” and “broaden the base” and “lower the rates.” It sounds terrific, as long as you pretend that the loopholes consist of things such as private jet depreciation, the president’s favorite example and one that costs the government, in the great red-ink scheme of things, almost nothing.

Eventually, though, someone will have to explain to voters that the only way tax reform works is by limiting their deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving, state and local taxes, and employer-provided health care. At that point it will become savagely clear that one man’s loophole is another man’s birthright.

And it’s not only by increasing the debt that this tax cut makes an eventual solution more difficult. The proposals Congress is considering to “pay for” this cut, meant to prove its fiscal discipline, ironically also make a grand deal more difficult.

Democrats want to increases taxes on million-dollar earners; Republicans want to charge high earners more for Medicare. In an age of growing inequality and out-of-control entitlement spending, both measures may make sense, but both will be needed in the hard bargaining ahead. Commit 10 years of them now for a one-year shot in the arm, and the bargaining gets that much tougher.

The economy still needs stimulus, and Obama is hardly the first incumbent to want to give voters a present as he gears up for reelection. Fifteen hundred dollars in each of our pockets will be a handy conversation-opener on the campaign trail, for the president and members of Congress alike.

That’s good politics.

Drawing one additional line in the sand, for at least a down payment on the long-term debt, would have been good leadership.

That true leadership also might make for good politics is a chance that, so far, no one has been willing to take.


Parker: Payroll ‘Tax Cut’ Just Another Welfare-state Scam

By Star Parker December 5, 2011 7:30 am

Last year a one-year cut in the payroll taxes that working Americans pay to finance Social Security was enacted in the name of so-called economic “stimulus.”

But, like the rest of the economic stimuli that have come from Washington over the last three years, the only thing that has been stimulated is the growing hole of national debt into which we sink deeper and deeper.

But now, not without surprise, our president and his Democratic colleagues want to continue, and possibly expand, this payroll tax holiday despite its obvious failure.

But wait a second. Failure is a matter of definition.

If the point was helping get our economy back on the road to growth and prosperity, the payroll tax holiday has been a failure.

But if the point of the payroll tax holiday is not to reduce government interference in our lives but to keep it, grow it and strengthen the decided movement of the last three years to turn our nation into a welfare-state plantation, it’s a great idea.

And that is really what is going on here and why President Obama and his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill love the idea.

Unlike our income taxes that government takes for general revenue and unspecified spending, the payroll tax is earmarked and specified. It pays for Social Security.

A cut in income taxes, even if not accompanied with an equivalent cut in government spending, puts the pressure for such cuts in place and carries with it the prospect of reduction of government interference in our lives.

But there is no such possibility with the payroll tax. When the tax was reduced “temporarily” last year from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, were working Americans asked to agree to an equivalent cut in their Social Security benefits that that payroll tax pays for?

Of course not.

What politician in his or her right mind would suggest to working Americans that they intend to cut Social Security benefits?

But cutting the payroll tax is a dream idea for anyone whose project is turning our nation into a welfare state.

This is because, unlike the income tax, which almost half Americans don’t pay, practically every working man and woman pays the payroll tax.

And, what the payroll tax pays for, Social Security, is impossible to cut.

So, if the payroll tax is cut, you have to find another way to pay for those Social Security retirement benefits.

So how about rich people?

Democrats would like for super-high income earners, the top 1 percent, who already pay 40 percent of America’s income taxes, to also start paying for everyone’s Social Security benefits.

Why not also force high-income earners to put their addresses up on the Internet and we can all send them our grocery bills, our car payments and our kids’ tuition bills? Let’s get the rich to pay for all our bills, including our retirement.

Unfortunately, some Republicans are allowing themselves to be suckered into this political blackmail.

Cutting payroll taxes earmarked for a Social Security system that is already bankrupt is no way to run a country and no way for people that are allegedly free and responsible citizens to live.

And using a payroll tax holiday as a back door plan to turn Social Security into a middle-class welfare program does not bode well for our nation’s future.

If the point is to fix Social Security, let working Americans keep their payroll tax and use it to fund their own private retirement account – an idea three of four Americans under 50 favor.

If the point is to restore our economy, let’s cut the trillion dollars in new spending we’ve larded into the government over the last three years and start focusing on rewarding rather than punishing individual freedom and success.

Star Parker is president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.

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Faith In The Word

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