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Why Does the Obama Administration Want to Know Your Political Beliefs Before They Give You a Job? September 22, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

 

While you were watching the political meltdowns…

Say you work hard and take a risk to start a business providing a good or service. The business is going fairly well and you decide to apply to get a federal government contract, because you can provide the result on time and on budget. 

You’re totally qualified and the best person for the job. But, there’s a catch: In the past two years, you’ve given money to an organization that the current administration doesn’t like. You’re never told why, but you don’t get the contract. Was the decision based on merit? Or your donations? 

You’ll probably never know. And what’s more, you probably won’t take the chance again and will stop donating to groups you worry aren’t going to sit well with the current group of government contract decision-makers (to name two opposing groups: National Right to Life or Planned Parenthood).

You’re probably thinking this could not happen in America, right? Wrong.

Here’s what’s happening: The administration is planning to have President Obama sign what’s called an executive order, which is a policy tool that’s used when you don’t need – or don’t want to ask for – congressional approval. 

Presidents have done this for decades, but rarely is an administration so brazen as to use it for purely political reasons. In this case, people will undoubtedly be discouraged from donating to a cause or political organization that they care about if it isn’t in line with the current administration, because getting the contract is much more important to their livelihoods.

And here’s the kicker: the EO would reach back two years. Anyone else think that’s terribly convenient?

First hearing this, I thought, “Surely this can’t be true!” Someone in the government must agree with me, because they leaked the draft document to Congress and the media. 

Now some members, including a bipartisan list of members of Congress, Sens. Collins and McCaskill, and Reps. Issa and Hoyer, are trying to put the brakes on the issuance of the EO.

Some defenders of the EO have said that it’s no big deal because this kind of information is already collected and it would never be used against an application. If the EO isn’t a big deal, why is it even necessary? Why don’t we just agree the EO is unnecessary and therefore won’t be issued? And if they can’t factor this information into their contracting decisions, why ask for it in the first place?

How could they do this? I mean, this IS still America, isn’t it? Where you get to express yourself freely, without worry of your beliefs impacting the way you try to make a living? 

Shouldn’t we guarantee that the best possible person be selected for the job, in the interest of the taxpayers funding this work? Even beyond the contracting and procurement processes, disclosure of this sort could lead to targeted retaliation and harassment. Contracts should be awarded on whether the company or individual is qualified, and if they can deliver — it shouldn’t matter what organization anyone supports – period.

The administration is about to put its heavy thumb on the scale that determines who gets federal contracts – and who doesn’t – based on organizations the applicant and the company’s officers have given money to in the past, even in their personal capacity. Is everybody cool with this? No way, but that’s not stopping them. 

Folks, it’s time to pay attention before hardworking people are forced to choose between causes they believe in, and putting dinner on the table.

Source by Dana Perino

Obama Pushes Congress to Pass Transportation Bill September 6, 2011

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President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass a transportation bill to ensure funding for roads and construction jobs, arguing that failure to do so would spell economic disaster.

Republicans say they support passing the bill, but Obama says time is running out and “political posturing” may stand in the way.

“There’s no reason to put more jobs at risk in an industry that has been one of the hardest-hit in this recession,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “There’s no reason to cut off funding for transportation projects at a time when so many of our roads are congested, so many of our bridges are in need of repair and so many businesses are feeling the cost of delays.

“This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue — it’s an American issue,” the president said.

Obama issued his call as he prepares to make a major jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday in which he’s expected to push for bipartisan action on tax credits and infrastructure spending to get the economy out of its doldrums. A new jobs report just found the economy stopped adding jobs in August and unemployment stood at 9.1 percent.

Federal highway programs, and the fuel taxes that pay for them, will expire Sept. 30 unless Congress acts, and funds for construction projects across the country would be held up. That follows the partial shutdown this summer of the Federal Aviation Administration over a showdown between the House and Senate that led to thousands of layoffs of workers on airport construction and other projects.

Transportation experts say the impact of an expiration of highway programs would be even more devastating for the economy. Transportation programs tend to have wide bipartisan support, but given the focus of the House Republican majority on cutting the budget, the legislation could run into disputes over how much to spend on it.

Republicans used their weekly address to push for passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and attack Obama over his approach to job creation. Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte complained that the administration has spent too much money on stimulus initiatives that didn’t work while piling on burdensome regulations.

“While our workers are being held back by Washington, there’s nothing in place to stop the federal government from bankrolling further big government spending — the kind that leads to government expansion into private-sector jobs, burdensome mandates on job creators and skyrocketing national debt,” Goodlatte said.

The debt legislation passed last month requires both the House and Senate to vote on a balanced-budget amendment, and Goodlatte said Obama should use his upcoming jobs speech to join the call for the measure.

But the administration and most Democrats oppose the approach as unnecessary and political, arguing Congress should be able to control the budget without amending the Constitution. Passage is unlikely anyway since it requires two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states.

Tax Hikes ‘Impossible’ Under Debt Deal? Think Again … August 1, 2011

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The debt-ceiling deal moving toward a vote in Congress could easily pave the way for tax increases despite Republican claims that tax hikes are “impossible” under a deal struck with the White House to reduce spending in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

But as everyone knows, “impossible” isn’t really in Washington’s vocabulary.

Here’s how it could happen:

After Congress enacts more than $900 billion in spending cuts to give President Obama a $900 billion lift in the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, a bipartisan committee will be formed to find roughly $1.5 trillion in additional deficit savings over the next decade.

To get there, the committee is free to look at virtually anything — including “revenue” — even though House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday night that current budgeting guidelines make it “impossible” for the 12-member group to approve tax hikes.

Other officials and analysts beg to differ.

“The suggestion that it is impossible for the joint committee to raise tax revenue simply is not accurate, it’s false,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Tea Party-aligned Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said that’s one of the concerns stopping him from supporting the deal.

“Certainly, tax increases could be something that we could face,” Lee told Fox News.

Boehner is able to claim no tax hikes are possible because the committee would work off the assumption that the Bush tax cuts — all of them — will expire in 2013. Combined with other expiring provisions, that adds up to $3.5 trillion in tax hikes over the next decade, without the committee taking any action.

“That’s baked into the cake, so to speak,” said Andrew Moylan, vice president of government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union.

If members are interested in raising revenue, the committee may then try to work to eliminate deductions and other special treatment in the tax code to keep revenue flowing. Boehner might not call that a tax hike — especially if Republicans can negotiate lower rates in exchange — but groups like the NTU do.

While many in Congress want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, the fate of the tax cuts for high earners is a matter of debate. That means leverage for Democratic negotiators.

Likewise, Obama could look to raise taxes in one of two ways — either by having the committee eliminate special treatment in the tax code, or by letting the Bush tax cuts for high-earners expire.

“He’s looking for tax increases,” Moylan said. “It’s going to come from one of those two sources.”

The White House isn’t exactly making a secret of its aspiration. A statement put out Sunday night said the committee must pair entitlement reform with “revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice.”

If that doesn’t happen, the White House said, the president could “use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income (Bush) tax cuts.”

According to the Tax Foundation, a family with two kids making $250,000 would face a tax hike of more than $3,200 if those tax cuts expire.

That option is far more objectionable to Republicans and their supporters.

As an alternative, Republicans on the new commission may be compelled to agree to a string of revenue increases through the elimination of deductions and exemptions — things like preferences for oil and gas companies or breaks for corporate jet owners — that Obama has talked about all along.

Carney mentioned those preferences again on Monday, when asked about what the committee could achieve. He also mentioned limiting itemized deductions for high-income earners.

How those tax changes are described is a matter of semantics. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Radio that no matter what the committee considers, “you couldn’t get a tax increase through the House of Representatives.”

But he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that “virtually every Republican I know” supports tax reform as long as it means a lower overall rate.

“The whole idea behind tax reform is to lower the rates and remove a lot of the preferences,” McConnell said.

Republicans will undoubtedly press hard for entitlement changes on the committee. Moylan said that accompanying changes in the tax code that eliminate tax “preferences” might not be described by Republicans as a tax increase, provided income tax rates don’t rise.

If enough lawmakers agree, the changes offered by the committee have a better chance of becoming law than the average tax hike bill would.

Under the terms of the deal, the Senate needs just a simple majority vote to approve the committee’s plan and no amendments are allowed. Senate passage typically means 51 senators. Democrats have 53 senators, counting the body’s two independents.

The proposal might face a tougher lift in the House — but conservatives and liberals alike will be compelled to approve something because a slew of deep cuts to both Medicare and the military would kick in if Congress fails to act by the end of the year.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the upcoming decisions could offer a chance for significant deficit reduction.

“It is unfortunate we couldn’t do more now, but luckily we’ll get two more bites at the apple — when the committee reports at the end of this year, and when the tax cuts expire and the debt enforcement mechanism hits at the end of next year,” President Mary MacGuineas said in a statement.

Don’t Let Politicians Rush Through Another Bad Deal July 8, 2011

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“Can anyone recall when any rushed-through plan ever lived up to its hype?”

Our future should not be determined behind closed doors.  Yet that’s where the White House and Congress are holding secret talks about our debt ceiling and about taxes and spending.

We deserve openness instead.  We don’t need another farce when the players suddenly burst from their huddle, line up Members of Congress, and rush through their plan on a quick count.

The two keys are first, frequent and detailed progress reports from the now-secret talks, and second, ample time for review of any agreement.

We’ve been told that participants supposedly agree on how to save $1-trillion.  But they’ve given zero details.  Their $1-trillion claim is suspect because they could be planning political gimmicks rather than true and immediate spending cuts.

In addition to ending the secrecy, we need complete and thorough disclosure of any agreement well in advance of any votes.  Those who don’t do their work on time should not claim that things have become too urgent to give us time to study and discuss their agreement.

President Obama has slow-walked things and made them worse by distancing himself until late in the process.  Sadly, Obama often dodges big issues by asking a commission to study them, or more typically by passing the buck to Vice-President Joe Biden.  President Truman’s famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign belongs in the Oval Office, not on the Vice-President’s desk.

But President Obama doesn’t deserve all the blame.  The House of Representatives did its job and passed a budget plan on-time this year, accepting the controversy that went with it.  But the Senate has not passed a budget for almost 800 days.

Congresswoman Anne Marie Buerkle (R, NY) keeps a running clock on her website, showing how long it’s been since the Senate did its duty.  She’s introduced the “Just Do Your Job Act” to deny paychecks to the Senate Budget Committee and to Senate leaders who aren’t getting their work done.

This Senate and White House foot-dragging is a tired old Washington game to create a sense of urgency.  Then that urgency is used to rush a last-minute proposal through Congress before the public knows the all-important details.

Congress has made 72 hours their minimum acceptable time frame for legislation to be available before voting.  This should be the complete and final details, not just outlines or drafts of proposals.  Under no circumstances should that minimum 72 hours be waived or reduced.  Additional time would be better because every extra day and hour will reduce the ability to slip things past the public.

Senators Jeff Sessions (R, AL) and Orrin Hatch (R, UT) wrote President Obama this weekend to urge him to protect the public’s right to know.  First, they asked for full details of what’s being discussed in secret, including “the most recent version of the proposals that were discussed, including a list of any tax increases for which the White House reportedly advocated.”

Sessions and Hatch also urge that any deal not be rushed.  They request that time be allowed for full analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, for congressional hearings on any proposal, and most importantly for the American public to know and review the details.

As they wrote to Obama, “Too often, we’ve heard promises of cutting spending and fiscal reform that have been empty and filled with gimmicks. That cannot happen again. A last-minute deal, delivered under the threat of panic, will not be acceptable.”

Sessions has added his request that the full details of any proposal be available to lawmakers for seven days before they are asked to vote on it.

Ample time is important.  Can anyone recall when any rushed-through plan ever lived up to its hype?

The country deserves not only an open negotiation process, with detailed status reports, but also plenty of time to review any agreement.  The current sense of urgency is no excuse to replace today’s crisis with a new set of enormous problems.

The public deserves to know everything that’s being proposed in talks, and whatever may be included in a deal, with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed.  No last-minute additions, no pork-barrel and no favors to buy votes.

It’s time to end the wall of secrecy.  President Obama, tear down this wall!

Turnaround Economy: Unemployment Worse than Obama Predicted Without Stimulus June 20, 2011

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President Obama repeated his claim that, while the current economy isn’t perfect, at least “we yanked an economy out of what could have been a second Great Depression.”  To date, no one has contested the validity of this claim.  They should, because that’s not what the Obama Administration said when they took office.

In January 2009 the new Obama Administration issued its now-infamous report titled “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” more commonly known as the “Romer/Bernstein Report” after the President and Vice President’s economists who authored it.  This report included estimates of what would  happen if the Administration’s stimulus plan was enacted, and what would happen if it wasn’t – presumably casting the U.S. into “another Great Depression.”  This chart displays the unemployment rates the Administration forecast in that January 2009 report if their stimulus plan passed (the “with stimulus” line), if their stimulus plan didn’t pass (the “without stimulus” line), and what actually happened:

Notice something important?  The unemployment rate the Administration in January 2009 predicted the U.S. would have now without their “yank(ing) the economy out of another Great Depression” (about 8 percent in the “without stimulus” line) is less than the current official U.S. unemployment rate (9.1 percent in May 2011).  Clearly, this data doesn’t support the President’s claim that the Administration “yanked the economy out of another Great Depression.”

But maybe the Administration didn’t know the true severity of the situation in January 2009, and only realized how bad things might get after releasing their January 2009 report.  That argument doesn’t hold water, either.  Senior Administration officials – including the President and his chief economists – knew how serious the U.S. economic situation was the month before the Administration’s January 2009 report.  According to the Wall Street Journal, on December 16, 2008 “the economic team and Mr. Obama met in the Chicago transition offices to grapple with an economic crisis that was spiraling downward. Christina Romer, who would become the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was chipper, but her message was dark: The U.S. recession was the worst since the Great Depression.”

The President can’t have it both ways.  He and his Administration said without their stimulus plan unemployment would be 8 percent by now – bad, but hardly a Depression level.  Now that their plan passed and unemployment turned out to be even worse, they can’t plausibly say they succeeded in “yank(ing) the economy out of another Great Depression.”  They didn’t, and the President’s claim that they did shouldn’t be allowed to stand.