Category Archives: Obamanomics

Definition of ‘Obamanomics’ – A buzzword that describes the economic philosophy of U.S President Barack Obama. Obamanomics calls for lower tax rates for companies that meet certain criteria, such as providing decent healthcare and maintaining a U.S. workforce and headquarters. Obama’s economic platform also calls for higher taxes for high-income families and investment in education, healthcare and the sciences.

Obamanomics generally stands in opposition to supply-side, or “trickle-down”, economics, which holds that people (including the rich) should keep more of what they earn because they will spend that money, promoting economic growth. Obamanomics shares some similarities with Keynesian economics, which states that active government intervention and monetary policy can smooth out bumps in economic cycles and promote stability.

Sense Of Unease Growing Around The World As U.S. Government Looks Befuddled

10/05/13
By STEVEN R. HURST

– An unmistakable sense of unease has been growing in capitals around the world as the U.S. government from afar looks increasingly befuddled — shirking from a military confrontation in Syria, stymied at home by a gridlocked Congress and in danger of defaulting on sovereign debt, which could plunge the world’s financial system into chaos.

While each of the factors may be unrelated to the direct exercise of U.S. foreign policy, taken together they give some allies the sense that Washington is not as firm as it used to be in its resolve and its financial capacity, providing an opening for China or Russia to fill the void, an Asian foreign minister told a group of journalists in New York this week.

Concerns will only deepen now that President Barack Obama canceled travel this weekend to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bali and the East Asia Summit in Brunei. He pulled out of the gatherings to stay home to deal with the government shutdown and looming fears that Congress will block an increase in U.S. borrowing power, a move that could lead to a U.S. default.

The U.S. is still a pillar of defense for places in Asia like Taiwan and South Korea, providing a vital security umbrella against China. It also still has strong allies in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf Arab states arrayed against al-Qaida and Iran.

But in interviews with academics, government leaders and diplomats, faith that the U.S. will always be there is fraying more than a little.

“The paralysis of the American government, where a rump in Congress is holding the whole place to ransom, doesn’t really jibe with the notion of the United States as a global leader,” said Michael McKinley, an expert on global relations at the Australian National University.

The political turbulence in Washington and potential economic bombshells still to come over the U.S. government shutdown and a possible debt default this month have sent shivers through Europe. The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, worried about the continent’s rebound from the 2008 economic downturn.

“We view this recovery as weak, as fragile, as uneven,” Draghi said at a news conference.

Germany’s influential newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung bemoaned the U.S. political chaos.

“At the moment, Washington is fighting over the budget and nobody knows if the country will still be solvent in three weeks. What is clear, though, is that America is already politically bankrupt,” it said.

Obama finds himself at the nexus of a government in chaos at home and a wave of foreign policy challenges.

He has been battered by the upheaval in the Middle East from the Arab Spring revolts after managing to extricate the U.S. from its long, brutal and largely failed attempt to establish democracy in Iraq. He is also drawing down U.S. forces from a more than decade-long war in Afghanistan with no real victory in sight. He leads a country whose people have no interest in taking any more military action abroad.

As Europe worries about economics, Asian allies watch in some confusion about what the U.S. is up to with its promise to rebalance military forces and diplomacy in the face of an increasingly robust China.

Global concerns about U.S. policy came to a head with Obama’s handling of the civil war in Syria and the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar Assad. But, in fact, the worries go far deeper.

“I think there are a lot of broader concerns about the United States. They aren’t triggered simply by Syria. The reaction the United States had from the start to events in Egypt created a great deal of concern among the Gulf and the Arab states,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military affairs specialist at the Center for International Studies.

Kings and princes throughout the Persian Gulf were deeply unsettled when Washington turned its back on Egypt’s long-time dictator and U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 uprising in the largest Arab country.

Now, Arab allies in the Gulf voice dismay over the rapid policy redirection from Obama over Syria, where rebel factions have critical money and weapons channels from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states. It has stirred a rare public dispute with Washington, whose differences with Gulf allies are often worked out behind closed doors. Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned that the renewed emphasis on diplomacy with Assad would allow the Syrian president to “impose more killing.”

After saying Assad must be removed from power and then threatening military strikes over the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack, the U.S. is now working with Russia and the U.N. to collect and destroy Damascus’ chemical weapons stockpile. That assures Assad will remain in power for now and perhaps the long term.

Danny Yatom, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, said the U.S. handling of the Syrian crisis and its decision not to attack after declaring red lines on chemical weapons has hurt Washington’s credibility.

“I think in the eyes of the Syrians and the Iranians, and the rivals of the United States, it was a signal of weakness, and credibility was deteriorated,” he said.

The Syrian rebels, who were promised U.S. arms, say they feel deserted by the Americans, adding that they have lost faith and respect for Obama.

The White House contends that its threat of a military strike against Assad was what caused the regime to change course and agree to plan reached by Moscow and Washington to hand its chemical weapons over to international inspectors for destruction. That’s a far better outcome than resorting to military action, Obama administration officials insist.

Gulf rulers also have grown suddenly uneasy over the U.S. outreach to their regional rival Iran.

Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said Gulf states “must be in the picture” on any attempts by the U.S. and Iran to open sustained dialogue or reach settlement over Tehran’s nuclear program. He was quoted Tuesday by the London-based Al Hayat newspaper as saying Secretary of State John Kerry has promised to consult with his Gulf “friends” on any significant policy shifts over Iran — a message that suggested Gulf states are worried about being left on the sidelines in potentially history-shaping developments in their region.

In response to the new U.S. opening to Iran to deal with its suspected nuclear weapons program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly that his country remained ready to act alone to prevent Tehran from building a bomb. He indicated a willingness to allow some time for further diplomacy but not much. And he excoriated new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Kerry defended the engagement effort, saying the U.S. would not be played for “suckers” by Iran. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production, while the U.S. and other countries suspect it is aimed at achieving atomic weapons capability.

McKinley, the Australian expert, said Syria and the U.S. budget crisis have shaken Australians’ faith in their alliance with Washington.

“It means that those who rely on the alliance as the cornerstone of all Australian foreign policy and particularly security policy are less certain — it’s created an element of uncertainty in their calculations,” he said.

Running against the tide of concern, leaders in the Philippines are banking on its most important ally to protect it from China’s assertive claims in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Manila still views the U.S. as a dependable ally despite the many challenges it is facing.

“We should understand that all nations face some kind of problems, but in terms of our relationship with the United States, she continues to be there when we need her,” Gazmin said.

“There’s no change in our feelings,” he said. “Our strategic relationship with the U.S. continues to be healthy. They remain a reliable ally.”

But as Cordesman said, “The rhetoric of diplomacy is just wonderful but it almost never describes the reality.”

That reality worldwide, he said, “is a real concern about where is the U.S. going. There is a question of trust. And I think there is an increasing feeling that the United States is pulling back, and its internal politics are more isolationist so that they can’t necessarily trust what U.S. officials say, even if the officials mean it.”

___

EDITOR’S NOTE — Steven R. Hurst, The Associated Press’ international political writer in Washington, has covered foreign affairs for 35 years, including extended assignments in Russia and the Middle East.

___

AP writers Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Robert H. Reid in Berlin, Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila, Gregory Katz in London, Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Sarah DiLorenzo and David McHugh in Paris contributed to this report.

Source

A Small President on the World Stage

At the U.N., leaders hope for a return of American greatness.

The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.

By PEGGY NOONAN

That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented.

As for those who are not America’s friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?

It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn’t know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.

“We want American leadership,” said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend.

“In the past we have seen some America overreach,” said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. “Now I think we are seeing America underreach.” He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise.

The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: “The biggest risk is not political but social. Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change.” His hope? That the things that made America a giant—”so much entrepreneurialism and vision”—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.

The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama‘s reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.

But some of it, surely, is just five years of Mr. Obama. World leaders do not understand what his higher strategic aims are, have doubts about his seriousness and judgment, and read him as unsure and covering up his unsureness with ringing words.

A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. “World leaders are very negative about Obama,” he said. They are “disappointed, feeling he’s not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don’t pay that much attention to him anymore.”

The diplomat was one of more than a dozen U.S. foreign-policy hands who met this week with the new president of Iran, Hasan Rouhani. What did he think of the American president? “He didn’t mention Obama, not once,” said the former envoy, who added: “We have to accept the fact that the president is rather insignificant at the moment, and rely on our diplomats.” John Kerry, he said, is doing a good job.

Had he ever seen an American president treated as if he were so insignificant? “I really never have. It’s unusual.” What does he make of the president’s strategy: “He doesn’t know what to do so he stays out of it [and] hopes for the best.” The diplomat added: “Slim hope.”

This reminded me of a talk a few weeks ago, with another veteran diplomat who often confers with leaders with whom Mr. Obama meets. I had asked: When Obama enters a room with other leaders, is there a sense that America has entered the room? I mentioned de Gaulle—when he was there, France was there. When Reagan came into a room, people stood: America just walked in. Does Mr. Obama bring that kind of mystique?

“No,” he said. “It’s not like that.”

When the president spoke to the General Assembly, his speech was dignified and had, at certain points, a certain sternness of tone. But after a while, as he spoke, it took on the flavor of re-enactment. He had impressed these men and women once. In the cutaways on C-Span, some delegates in attendance seemed distracted, not alert, not sitting as if they were witnessing something important. One delegate seemed to be scrolling down on a BlackBerry, one rifled through notes. Two officials seated behind the president as he spoke seemed engaged in humorous banter. At the end, the applause was polite, appropriate and brief.

The president spoke of Iran and nuclear weapons—”we should be able to achieve a resolution” of the question. “We are encouraged” by signs of a more moderate course. “I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort.”

But his spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn’t happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.

Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.

While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.

He appears to be intelligent, smooth, and he said all the right things—”moderation and wisdom” will guide his government, “global challenges require collective responses.” He will likely prove a tough negotiator, perhaps a particularly wily one. He is eloquent when speaking of the “haunted” nature of some of his countrymen’s memories when they consider the past 60 years of U.S.-Iranian relations.

Well, we have that in common.

He seemed to use his eloquence to bring a certain freshness, and therefore force, to perceived grievances. That’s one negotiating tactic. He added that we must “rise above petty politics,” and focus on our nations’ common interests and concerns. He called it “counterproductive” to view Iran as a threat; this charge is whipped up by “alarmists.” He vowed again that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, saying this would be “contrary to Islamic norms.”

I wondered, as he spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn’t say, and nobody thought to ask him.

Source

How The Corrupt Establishment Is Selling Moral Bankruptcy To America

August 13, 2013 by Brandon Smith

Morality is a highly misunderstood component of human nature. Some people believe they can create moral guidelines from thin air based on their personal biases and prejudices. Some people believe that morality comes from the force of bureaucracy and government law. Still, others believe that there is no such thing; that morality is a facade created by men in order to better grease the wheels of society.

All of these world views discount the powerful scientific and psychological evidence surrounding Natural Law — the laws that human beings form internally due to inherent conscience, regardless of environmental circumstances. When a person finally grasps inborn morality, the whole of the world comes into focus. The reality is that we are not born “good” or “evil.” Rather, we are all born with the capacity for good AND evil, and this internal battle stays with us until the end of our days.

Every waking moment we are given a choice, a test of our free will, to be ruled by desire and fear, or to do what we know at our very core is right. When a man silences his inner voice, the results can be terrible for him and those around him. When an entire culture silences its inner voice, the results can be catastrophic. Such a shift in the moral compass of a society rarely takes place in a vacuum. There is always a false shepherd, a corrupt leadership that seeks to rule. Rulership, though, is difficult in the face of an awake population that respects integrity and honor. Therefore criminals must follow these specific steps in order to take power:

Pretend To Be Righteous: They must first sell the public on the idea that they hold the exact same values of natural law as everyone else. The public must at first believe that the criminal leaders are pure in their motives and have the best interests of the nation at heart, even if they secretly do not.

Pretend To Be Patriotic: Despots often proclaim an untarnished love of their homeland and the values that it was founded upon. However, what they really seek is to become a living symbol of the homeland. They insist first that they are the embodiment of the national legacy, and then they attempt to change that national legacy entirely. A corrupt government uses the ideals of a society to acquire a foothold, and when they have gained sufficient control, they dictate to that society a new set of ideals that are totally contrary to the original.

Offer To “Fix” The Economy: Tyrants do not like it when the citizens under them are self sufficient or economically independent. They will use whatever methods are at their disposal including subversive legislation, fiat currency creation, corporate monopoly and even engineered financial collapse in order to remove the public’s ability to function autonomously. They will begin this process under the guise that the current less-controlled and less-centralized system is “not safe enough,” and that they have a better way to ensure prosperity.

Offer To Lend A Hand: Once the population has been removed from its own survival imperative and is for the most part helpless, the criminal leadership moves in and offers to “help” using taxation and money creation, slowly siphoning the wealth from the middle class and raising prices through inflation. Eventually, everyone will be “equal”; equally poor that is. In the end, the whole nation will see the rulership as indispensable, for without them, the economy would no longer exist and tragedy would ensue.

Create External Fear: Once in place, the criminal leadership then conjures an enemy for the people, or multiple enemies for the people. The goal here is to create a catalyst for mass fear. When the majority of people are afraid of an external threat, they will embrace the establishment as a vital safeguard. When a society becomes convinced that it cannot take care of itself economically, little coaxing is required to convince them that they are also not competent enough to take care of their own defense. At this point, the establishment has free reign to dissolve long cherished freedoms while the masses are distracted by a mysterious threat hiding somewhere over the horizon.

Create Internal Fear: They move the threat from over the horizon, right to the public’s front door, or even within their own home. The enemy is no longer a foreigner. Now, the enemy is the average looking guy two houses over, or an outspoken friend, or even a dissenting family member. The enemy is all around them, according to the establishment. The public is sold on the idea that the sacrifice needed in order to combat such a pervasive “threat” is necessarily high.

Sell The People On The Virtues Of Moral Relativism: Now that the populace is willing to forgo certain liberties for the sake of security, they have been softened up enough for reprogramming to begin. The establishment will tell the people that the principles they used to hold so dear are actually weaknesses that make them vulnerable to the enemy. In order to defeat an enemy so monstrous, they claim, we must become monstrous ourselves. We must be willing to do ANYTHING, no matter how vile or contrary to natural law, in order to win.

Honesty must be replaced with deceit. Dissent must be replaced with silence. Peace must be replaced with violence. The independent should be treated with suspicion. The outspoken treated with contempt. Women and children are no longer people to be protected, but targets to be eliminated. The innocent dead become collateral damage. The innocent living become informants to be tortured and exploited. Good men are labeled cowards because they refuse to “do what needs to be done,” while evil men are labeled heroes for having the “strength of will” to abandon their conscience.

Thus, the criminal leadership makes once honorable citizens accomplices in the crime. The more disgusting the crime, the more apt the people will be to defend it and the system in general, simply because they have been inducted into the dark ceremony of moral ambiguity.

The actions of the state become the actions of all society. A single minded collectivist culture is born, one in which every person is a small piece of the greater machine. And, that which the machine is guilty of, every man is guilty of. Therefore, it becomes the ultimate and absurd purpose of each person within the system to DENY the crime, deny the guilt, and make certain that the machine continues to function for generations to come.

Though we have already passed though most of the above stages, Americans are still not yet quite indoctrinated into the realm of moral relativism. This is, though, swiftly changing.

The Current Sales Pitch

Just take a look at the attitude of the Barack Obama Administration and the mainstream media towards Edward Snowden and his recent asylum approved by Russia.

The White House, rather than admitting wrongdoing in its support for the NSA’s mass surveillance of American citizens without warrant, or even attempting to deny the existence of the PRISM program, is now instead trying to promote NSA spying as essential to our well being, and wag a shaming finger at Snowden and the Russian government for damaging their domestic spy network. Obama lamented on Russia’s stance, stating that their thinking is “backwards.”

Did I miss something here? I’m no fan of the Russian oligarchy, but shouldn’t Obama and most of the NSA (let alone every other Federal alphabet agency) be sitting in a dark hole somewhere awaiting trial for violating the Constitution on almost every level? Yet, we are instead supposed to despise Snowden for exposing the crime they committed and distrust any country that happens to give him shelter?

Due to public outcry, Obama has attempted to pacify critics by announcing plans to make NSA mass surveillance “more transparent”. First, I would like to point out that he did not offer to end NSA spying on Americans without warrant, which is what a President with any ounce of integrity would have done. Second, Obama’s calls for more transparency have come at the exact same time as the NSA announces its plans to remove 90 percent of its systems administrators to make sure another “Snowden incident” does not occur.

Does this sound like an agency that plans on becoming “more transparent”?

Second, would Obama have called for ANY transparency over the NSA whatsoever if Snowden had never come forward? Of course not! The exposure of the crime has led to lies and empty placation, nothing more.

In the meantime, numerous other political miscreants have hit the media trail, campaigning for the NSA as well as other surveillance methods, bellowing to the rafters over the absolute necessity of domestic spy programs. Fifteen years ago, the government would have tried to sweep all of this under the rug. Today, they want to acclimate us to the inevitability of the crime, stating that we had better get used to it.

Their position? That Snowden’s whistleblowing put America at risk. My questions is, how? How did Snowden’s exposure of an unConstitutional and at bottom illegal surveillance program used against hundreds of millions of innocent Americans do our country harm? Is it the position of the White House that the truth is dangerous, and deceit is safety?

I suspect this is the case considering the recent treatment of military whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been accused by some to have “aided Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts” through his actions.

How did Manning do this? By releasing information, including battlefield videos, that were hidden from the public containing proof of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps I’m just a traditionalist and not hip to modern diplomatic strategy, but I would think that if you don’t want to be blamed for war crimes, then you probably shouldn’t commit war crimes. And, if you don’t want the enemy to gain new recruits, you should probably avoid killing innocent civilians and pissing off their families. Just a thought.

So, just to keep track, U.S. government commits war crimes, but is the good guy. Bradley Manning exposes war crimes, and is the bad guy. Moral relativism at its finest. Moving on…

The shift towards moral bankruptcy is being implemented in the financial world as well. Investors, hedge funds, and major banks now surge into the stock market every time the private Federal Reserve hints that it may continue fiat stimulus. When bad news hits the mainstream feeds, people playing the Dow casino actually cheer with glee, exactly because bad economic news means more QE from the Fed. They know that the Fed is artificially propping up the markets. The Fed openly admits that it does this. And they know that our fiscal system is hanging by a thin thread. And you know what, very few of them care.

The Fed created the collapse with easy money and manipulated interest rates, and now, some people cheer them as the heroes of the U.S. financial structure.

The American narrative is quickly changing. There has long been criminality and degeneracy within our government and the corporate cartels surrounding it, but I believe what we are witnessing today is the final step in the metamorphosis that is totalitarianism. The last stage accelerates when the average citizen is not just complicit in the deeds of devils, but when he becomes a devil himself. When Americans froth and stomp in excitement for the carnival of death, and treat the truth as poison, then the transformation will be complete.

-Brandon Smith

Source

Obama’s doomed attempt to save his legacy

The White House adopts a strategy of deception by distraction

By Emily Miller

President Obama’s approval ratings are falling faster than skydiver Felix Baumgartner during his record-setting jump from outer space.

In a desperate move to salvage his second term, Mr. Obama threw out his top liberal agenda items — immigration, gun control and race relations — and pivoted to the economy. The problem is that the only one to blame for the five-year malaise is the current resident of the Oval Office.

The president fueled up Air Force One on Wednesday to fly to the heartland for two stops in an attempt to physically distance himself from Washington.

“It may seem hard right now, but if we’re willing to take a few bold steps — if Washington will just shake off its complacency, set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship that we’ve seen over the past few years — I promise you, our economy will be stronger a year from now,” Mr. Obama said at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

The president acts like he just arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week. He’s had four years, yet his policies have failed to create jobs and restore economic growth.

“There are days I think he forgets that he is actually president,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told me Thursday. “He wants to blame everyone but himself and his failure to join bipartisan efforts to create jobs, like the Keystone pipeline, is the reason we are not in a better place.”

The economy has never grown much more than by minuscule amounts during the Obama administration. Gross domestic product has grown at an anemic pace since he’s been in the White House, barely sputtering at 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Unemployment under Mr. Obama has averaged a discouraging 8.8 percent and still tops out at 7.6 percent.

Gas prices are rising again, but Mr. Obama spent a long stretch of these speeches touting the doubling of “clean energy” production on his watch. He claimed to have “saved the auto industry,” but didn’t mention that Detroit has gone bankrupt.

Most absurdly, he cited as a point of pride that “our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.” He left out two key points: The congressional Republicans demanded spending cuts for increasing the debt ceiling, and the rate of decrease is high because the deficits themselves have been the largest red ink in U.S. history. Spending was $1.4 trillion more than revenue in 2009 and $1 trillion more in 2012.

The Congressional Budget Office projects a $642 billion deficit for this fiscal year, but that’s mostly because Mr. Obama hiked taxes on Jan. 1 to pay for his spending habits.

The president takes almost as little responsibility for his own actions as Anthony D. Weiner, the disgraced sexting addict and former congressman running for New York City mayor.

“With this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop,” the president said in a 64-minute speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “Our focus has to be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you, the people we represent.”

By “phony scandals,” Mr. Obama is referring to the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservatives and then concealing the evidence and refusing to provide testimony to a congressional committee. He is also referring to his Justice Department sneaking into the emails and phone calls of reporters who don’t support the Obama administration’s agenda.

The president’s “endless parade of distractions” would also include exposing the National Security Agency’s secret Prism program that has been spying on innocent Americans’ Internet searches, phone calls and emails.

It has also been distracting to have Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. launch an investigation into whether George Zimmerman broke federal racial discrimination laws when he killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Story Continues →

Tax writers promise 50 years of secrecy for senators’ suggestions

By Bernie Becker

The Senate’s top tax writers have promised their colleagues 50 years worth of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits to preserve in tax reform.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), assured lawmakers that any submission they receive will be kept under lock and key by the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064.

Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members — 10 in all — will get direct access to a senator’s written suggestions. Each submission will also be given its own ID number and be kept on password-protected servers, with printed versions kept in locked safes.

The promise of confidentiality was revealed just two days before the deadline for senators to participate in the Finance Committee’s “blank slate” process, which puts the onus on lawmakers to argue for what credits and deductions should be kept in a streamlined tax code.

A Finance Committee aide said Baucus and Hatch were trying to prove to colleagues that they were making secrecy a priority. Officials on the panel circulated the news to senators in a memo that was dated last Friday.

“The letter was done at the request of offices to provide some assurance that the committee would not make their submissions public,” the aide said. “Sens. Baucus and Hatch are going out of their way to assure their colleagues they will keep the submissions in confidence.”

Keeping the submissions confidential for a half century, the aide added, was “standard operating procedure for sensitive materials, including investigation materials.”

The lengths Baucus and Hatch have gone to reassure their colleagues underscores the importance the tax writers are placing on the blank-slate plan, and it shows they are working hard to ensure that all 100 senators engage in the process.

Baucus told The Hill he fully expects more senators to participate in writing because of the secrecy guarantee.

“Several senators have said to me how important that is to them,” Baucus said. “It’s quite significant.”

It also illustrates the enormous pressure being brought to bear by K Street lobbyists, who are working furiously to protect their clients and the tax provisions that benefit them.

The move raises the stakes for Baucus and Hatch, who stand to lose credibility if the submissions start to leak out despite their vow to keep them in the vault.

Baucus announced this week that the Finance panel would mark up a tax reform bill this fall, after he has a chance during the August recess to consider his colleagues’ submissions. He suggested that the senators who take part in the blank-slate process would have greater influence.

From the start of the process, senators have expressed concerns that Baucus and Hatch wouldn’t be able to keep their proposals private. Given the enormous amount of money on the line — more than $1 trillion a year in tax expenditures are up for possible elimination — blowback from interest groups and businesses could easily derail the process.

The blank slate, some senators argue, forces them to choose sides on tax breaks that can have fervent backers back home and make them appear to be favoring special interests.

Hatch stressed that he still expects a fair number of GOP senators to give him oral suggestions, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Hill that he thought all Republicans would decide against putting ideas down on paper.

“We’re getting a lot of input regardless,” Hatch said. “All I want is input. I don’t care how they do it, whether it’s in writing or whether it’s personally.”

Under the confidential procedures set by the Finance panel, other committee staffers will only be allowed to handle senators’ suggestions if supervised by at least of the 10 authorized staffers.

Both the Democratic and Republican sides will receive a copy of a submission, and authorized staffers are supposed to log when copies of those proposals are made, who made them and how many.

The submissions can be released publicly, the memo says, if they’re scrubbed of any way of identifying the senator behind them.

But the confidentiality agreement might not be enough to get some senators off the sidelines.

Many have questioned whether it makes sense to move forward on the blank-slate approach when Democrats and Republicans have yet to resolve their long-standing differences about revenue.

While Republicans want the additional revenue from a simplified code to be used solely for lowering tax rates, Democrats want some of the windfall to go toward paying down the deficit.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stressed that he didn’t think any leaks would come out of the committee, even as he said he didn’t think it would have much impact on what senators actually write.

“If anything comes out, it’s certainly not going to be attributable to the leadership of the committee or the staff,” Cardin said. “It’ll be some other way it comes out, which is always possible.”

Still, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who said that all Republicans were meeting one-on-one with Hatch, added that the two top tax writers were taking a chance.

“I think that, unfortunately for them, people around here tend to believe that anything in Washington — there are no secrets,” Thune said. “But they’re doing their best.”

“That should be somewhat reassuring,” Thune added. “I think people will feel a little bit more freedom.”

Source

%d bloggers like this: