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Why Won’t the President Take Questions?

Posted August 14, 2012

MEMO

FROM: RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer @seanspicer

TO: Interested Parties

RE: Why Won’t the President Take Questions?

It’s been almost eight weeks since President Obama last took questions from the White House press corps. Since then, a lot has happened, and the American people are demanding answers on a growing list of issues.

When will President Obama quit ducking and dodging? When will he hold himself accountable?

Here are just some of the questions Americans have for President Obama–and that he has yet to answer:

1) Why did you cut $700 billion from Medicare?

Even as he talks Medicare on the campaign trail, the president has not explained why he robbed Medicare–and the seniors who depend on it–to bankroll Obamacare.

2) Do you condemn the Obama SuperPAC’s desperate and despicable ad campaign?

As a candidate, then-Senator Obama promised to “walk the walk” and denounce independent organizations that ran indefensible ads on his behalf. Yet when the Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA produced an ad attempting to exploit a woman’s death for political gain, he remained silent. He previously gave his blessing to the SuperPAC and allows his cabinet and top staff to fundraise for it, but he lacks the courage to take responsibility for their appalling behavior.

3) How do you explain the July increase in unemployment and slowing GDP growth?

Last month, unemployment increased to 8.3 percent, marking the 42nd straight month of unemployment above 8 percent. We learned in July that GDP growth slowed, meaning the economy is losing steam. Yet the president cannot say why four more years of the same failed policies will turn around this dangerous trend.

4) Why is your plate too full for your own Jobs Council?

President Obama has not convened his Jobs Council in over seven months. The White House says he’s too busy, but he has found time for 130 political fundraisers since the last meeting of what he claimed was not a “show council.” (He has attended more than 200 fundraisers since April 2011.) So much for making jobs a “number one” priority.

5) Did you approve of David Plouffe’s profiting from a sponsor of terrorism?

Right after announcing his return to the Obama White House, David Plouffe accepted a $100,000 speaking gig with a company who had ties to sponsors of terrorism. It hardly seems responsible to give someone a high level security clearance after exhibiting such poor judgment.

6) Can you explain to business owners your “You didn’t build that” comment?

Small businesses are struggling in the Obama economy–especially in the wake of Obamacare. Entrepreneurs and innovators are rightfully outraged that the president would denigrate their hard work and attack them both with his policies and his words.

7) Do you condone your staff using personal email accounts to conduct government business?

We learned recently that former Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina used a private account to email lobbyists about “rolling Pelosi” during Obamacare negations. This seems highly hypocritical for the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history.”

8) Why didn’t you stop the restructuring of Solyndra’s loan?

Nearly everybody in the president’s inner circle knew Solyndra was headed for disaster. But the White House and the Administration approved of a loan restructuring plan that put taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions more. The president has not explained how he let this happen.

9) Why did you invoke executive privilege on the Fast and Furious scandal?

Americans deserve answers on how this failed operation turned into a tragedy. But the president is hypocritically impeding transparency and accountability.

10) Can you reconcile the conflicting responses to national security leaks?

Keeping America safe and secure is of paramount importance, but the president has yet to see fit to answer the charges, from Dianne Feinstein no less, that sensitive information has been leaked by his administration for political gain.

Surely President Obama can find time to answer ten simple questions. Or is running from his record the official platform of the Obama campaign?

Source

Exclusive: Brazil to cut electricity taxes to boost economy

https://i1.wp.com/www.bloomberg.com/image/i7JVkWocWv9M.jpg

By Brian Winter
SAO PAULO | Tue May 15, 2012 9:55am EDT

(Reuters) – President Dilma Rousseff plans to cut and simplify taxes for electricity producers and distributors, two senior officials told Reuters, as part of a strategy to reduce Brazil‘s high business costs and stimulate its struggling economy.

Brazil has been on the brink of recession since mid-2011 as high taxes, an overvalued exchange rate and other structural problems squeeze what had previously been one of the world’s most dynamic emerging economies.

Rousseff has in recent months announced targeted tax cuts for stagnant sectors such as the automotive industry, embracing an incremental approach to reform that has drawn criticism from investors who say more drastic changes are needed.

But the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tax reductions for electricity companies would likely be the most far-reaching to date.

They said Rousseff will announce the plans in coming weeks. Brazil has the world’s third-highest power costs so Rousseff is aiming to give relief to consumers as well as companies in energy-intensive areas such as steel and petrochemicals.

Internal government studies suggest that, depending on which taxes are cut, electricity costs could fall by between 3 and 10 percent starting as early as 2013, the officials said.

That would have a measurable impact on inflation, and thus aid Rousseff’s quest to push Brazilian interest rates lower.

“We know that taxes in Brazil are crazy, and we’re trying to do something about it,” one senior official said. “(Electricity) seems like a case where we can make a big difference quickly.”

Rousseff probably will not pass the tax cuts by decree, so she will have to negotiate them with Congress and other groups.

She plans to use her record-high popularity ratings to push through cuts to taxes at both the federal and state level, with a special focus on eliminating levies that overlap or are difficult to calculate, the officials said.

Brazil’s tax code is so complex that an average company spends 2,600 hours a year calculating what it owes, according to the World Bank‘s annual Doing Business study, which compares business practices around the world. That is almost 14 times the time needed to do taxes in the United States, and by far the highest among the 183 countries in the bank’s survey.

“The focus is as much on simplifying taxes as reducing them,” a second official said.

Brazil’s electricity industry includes state-run companies such as Eletrobras (LIPR3.SA) as well as multinationals like AES Corp. (AES.N) and GDF Suez (GSZ.PA). Hydroelectric power supplies about three-quarters of Brazil’s electricity needs, with nuclear, thermal and wind power accounting for the rest.

If the initiative is successful, Rousseff will use a similar blueprint to reduce taxes for other industries in coming months, possibly including telecoms, the officials said.

Specific details such as the size of the tax cuts, which taxes will be targeted, and the timing of the announcement are still being finalized by Rousseff’s team, the officials said. One said the plan would likely be unveiled in late June, before politicians nationwide turn their attention to municipal elections in October.

POWER COSTS A PROBLEM FOR INDUSTRIES

Electricity prices are a big component of the so-called “Brazil cost” – the mix of taxes, high interest rates, labor costs, infrastructure bottlenecks, and other issues that have caused the economy to become less competitive.

After a decade of strong performance, Brazil grew below the Latin American average in 2011 and so far this year.

Brazil’s average electricity cost of $180 per megawatt hour is exceeded only by Italy and Slovakia, the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a private think-tank, said in a 2011 study based on data from the International Energy Agency.

High electricity rates have contributed to stagnant investment and production in energy-intensive industries. Despite Brazil’s bauxite and alumina resources, no new aluminum factories have been built in Brazil since 1985 and two have closed, keeping production levels stagnant, the Getulio Vargas study said. It added that electricity accounts for 35 percent – “an insane proportion” – of the industry’s production costs.

Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer Alcoa (AA.N) said in April it was considering big production cuts at two of its Brazil factories in part because of high electricity costs.

One of the officials who spoke to Reuters said the situation at Alcoa had added urgency to Rousseff’s plan to cut taxes.

All told, taxes account for about half of the cost of electricity in Brazil, studies show. The taxes themselves are roughly evenly split between the federal and state level.

Cutting or simplifying taxes at the federal level will be relatively straightforward for Rousseff. However, she also believes she can push through tax cuts at the state level by using leverage from upcoming debt negotiations.

Several states are asking for lower interest rates on debt they owe the federal government. Rousseff will likely ask the states to simplify or cut their taxes on electricity in return, one of the sources said.

The left-leaning president will also ensure that any tax relief is fully passed along to consumers, the officials said.

Although the electricity sector is partly privately controlled, Rousseff believes she can use the pricing power of state-run companies to effectively push rates lower if needed, they said. An upcoming renegotiation of concessions in the industry could also be an opportunity to push for lower rates.

SHADOWS OF STRATEGY WITH BANKS

Rousseff’s tactics are similar to those she used to cut interest rates in recent months – another pillar of her strategy to reduce the “Brazil cost.”

Her government has frozen billions of dollars in spending, allowing the central bank to slash its benchmark interest rate by 3.5 percentage points since August. When some private-sector banks balked at lowering rates for consumers, Rousseff and senior officials publicly hectored them for having some of the world’s largest spreads.

State-run banks then announced lower interest rates for customers, and the private banks soon yielded and followed suit.

Such tactics have caused friction between Rousseff and some members of the business community, especially banking executives, who privately accuse her of trying to bully the private sector.

Yet the officials said Rousseff is using the best tools available to her to restore Brazil’s competitiveness. Congress blocked attempts at a comprehensive tax reform by her predecessor as president, and Rousseff, herself a former energy minister, believes the only politically viable alternative is to move one sector at a time, they said.

“I’m fully aware that Brazil needs to reduce its tax burden,” Rousseff told reporters while on a visit to India in March. “What I have done is take little measures that, in their totality, create greater tax breaks, which is fundamental for the country to grow.”

(Reporting by Brian Winter; Editing by Kieran Murray and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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