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Fiscal responsibility strikes the heart of America’s problems

Like a speeding train headed for a cliff, the conductor knows impending catastrophe is rapidly approaching and the time to act is running out. Just like that conductor, America is now facing a similar scenario as the deficits the country is racking up are reaching unsustainable levels.

The current White House administration has enacted record breaking spending packages like, TARP part two, stimulus one and two as well as a new trillion-dollar health care entitlement program.

While the country continues to face a stubborn recession and families tightened their budgets in order to wait out the economic storm, President Obama continues to put forth larger than life yearly budgets with massive spending programs and no budgetary control in sight.

However, team Obama has put together a debt commission. The co-chairs, Erskine Bowles a Democrat and Alan Simpson a Republican are searching for a solutions regarding America’s impending financial doomsday.

The commission says that at all options are on the table during their first once month meetings. They expect to present the President with their findings right after the November mid-term elections.

The commission is made up of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans and for a recommendation to move forward they must have 14 of the 18 members in agreement. This will not be easy considering the Senate cannot come up with 60 of 100 votes to move legislation ahead.

Adding insult to injury, Washington Post writer Dana Milbank said, “Holding a ‘fiscal responsibility summit’ at the White House in the middle of a government spending spree is a bit like having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a frat house on homecoming weekend.”

Seeing the writing on the wall Congress has not put forth its normally straightforward budget resolution by the April 15 deadline. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn’t act it would be the first time since 1974 that Congress failed to pass a yearly budget.

In the midst of record level deficits it looks like Congress may be coming to their senses regarding the federal government’s budget as they are having trouble passing a bill with overwhelming numbers skewing in the Democrats favor.

If Congress isn’t operating with a budget, Congressional appropriators could ignore standard caps on discretionary spending for fiscal year 2011. On top of that the debt commission holds no real power in Washington D.C. Any recommendations made by the panel must be adopted by Congress and the panel lacks any public input.

Until Congress realizes debt is the symptom and spending is the disease gridlock in Washington will remain intact.

According to a Fox News report the prized-jewel health care reform bill could be a sitting duck for the newly formed debt commission. In the discussions this week President Obama said everything was on the table – including the new health care bill, Social Security, Value Added Tax (VAT) and steep tax increases for those making less than $250 thousand per year.

On word of Greece’s reduced credit rating the stock markets tumbled in Europe and America.

“We live in a global economy,” Commissioner Bowles said. “We’ve got a deficit this year of $1.6 trillion. Half of what we’re borrowing every year we borrow from foreign countries. Forget if China starts to sell our (Treasury) bonds. Think if they just quit buying and what that will do to our interest rates, what that will do to the dollar, and what that will do to the economy in America. We’ve got to fix this debt problem or there’s not going to be a great future for this country.”

Republican co-chair, Simpson of the commission concurred. “These things are known to guys in Dubuque, Iowa, and Cody, Wyoming. You just don’t realize how alert the American people are to what’s happening. And they’ll come up to you on the street and say I’m willing to pay more taxes or I’m ready to cut back on this. Unsustainable is not a good word. It’s called going broke.”

The Heritage Foundation acknowledges the problem is far larger than Washington is alluding to. “The only reason to consider the VAT is because the current tax system cannot support the massive spending surge the President has already pushed through let alone the additional spending he envisions or the entitlements wave to follow. Either he finds a way to finagle the VAT or he will be forced to pare spending back to previous levels. Either Washington puts a much bigger squeeze on the taxpayers, or Washington must go on a crash diet. It’s time to send the federal government to a fat farm.”

The debt commission’s goal is to reduce the federal budget to three percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2015. The 10 percent number the U.S. is currently saddled with means there are some tough choices on the horizon.

Big-ticket entitlement programs the debt commission is looking at include, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Earlier in the week Obama said he would ask the panel to scour the current U.S. tax code and he said he would not rule out any tax increases for the middle class if the debt commission believes it is necessary to begin chipping away at the deficit.

For more stories;

All House Republicans vote to end earmark spending for the rest of the year

In a united front all House Republicans voted to end any earmarks in every piece of legislation for the rest of the year.

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement after House Republicans adopted a unilateral moratorium on all earmarks, including tax and tariff-related earmarks.

“For millions of Americans, the earmark process in Congress has become a symbol of a broken Washington. Today House Republicans took an important step toward showing the American people we’re serious about reform by adopting an immediate, unilateral ban on all earmarks. But the more difficult battle lies ahead, and that’s stopping the spending spree in Washington that is saddling our children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars in debt. Only then will we have succeeded in bringing fundamental change to the way Congress spends taxpayers’ money.”

Democrats had a dissenting view on earmarks. “I don’t believe this policy or ceding authority to the executive branch on any spending decision is in the best interests of the Congress or the American people,” Senator Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) said.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) Chairman of the Republican Conference Committee had this to say about the passage of the new earmark moratorium.

“Republicans are going to the American people and saying that we are making a clean break from the runaway spending of the past,” Pence said. We are going to start over and put the American people and fiscal discipline back in the drivers seat and that’s going to be quite a contrast to the House Democrats and this Administration.”

Congressman Pence explained that Americans don’t want this particular health care bill and are tired of the “cornhusker kickback deals” and the new measure by the Republicans promising no more earmarks will make it even tougher to push through the trillion dollar government health care entitlement program.

“The American people are on to this favor factory and earmarking,” Pence said.

He also admitted that Republicans were a part of the runaway spending, but they are united in reversing their credit card spending ways. “We are listening.”

In an impromptu press meeting, Rep. David Obey, (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations panel, said the ban on earmarks to companies that make profits will mean 1,000 fewer earmarks and break the connection between campaign contributions and earmarks that has resulted in numerous ethics probes of lawmakers. But wasn’t for banning all earmarks.

It remains unclear if Senate members will vote on a similar moratorium, however the looming midterms will surely up the ante for political leaders looking for votes.

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Washington D.C. to raise the federal debt of $12 trillion by $1.8 trillion

In alarming news out of Washington D.C. Democratic lawmakers will add a $1.8 trillion debt increase amendment into a must-pass military appropriations bill. Both Houses have identified the shortfalls in the federal government revenue stream and claims they need more money to operate.

This would be the point when businesses and average citizens would buckle down and cut spending in order to get by, not the federal government. What better way to ensure the $1.8 trillion money will be given to the federal government than to add the amendment to a $636.4 billion Pentagon appropriations bill that includes funds for the surge in Afghanistan.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer-D MD told Politico; “We’ve incurred this debt. We have to pay our bills.”

The Treasury Department reports that the current debt ceiling of $12.1 trillion is not enough to keep Washington running through 2010 and stated the $1.8 trillion increase may not be enough to get through next year.

They blame the downturn in the economy as the main reason revenues are down and borrowing is up.

While the White House rhetoric continues to play the debt concern card, lawmakers continue to play the spend card. For example, a vote expected to take place this week regarding the budget of 12 Cabinet departments included a 9-10 percent increase over last year’s budget and will cost taxpayers $446.8 billion.

While most Americans settle down and reduce spending the government continues to operate with reckless abandon.

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Michelle Obama’s staff cost taxpayers $1.75 million

The White House is open for business and as such the first lady, Michelle, has hired roughly 25 staff members that report directly to her. This is a break from the previous two first ladies’; Hillary Clinton managed three employees, while Laura Bush had just one employee.

The magnitude of the first lady’s staff comes at a staggering taxpayer cost of $1.75 million per year. This number doesn’t include federal benefits, this cost is undisclosed.

The salaries rage from $172,200 at the high end to $36,000 on the low end. While most Americans suffer from the global-sized recession, the White House doesn’t seem to be too frugal with its spending practices.

For the link to the White House employee list;

The following are the names and salaries of Michele Obama’s staff
1. $172,200 – Sher, Susan (Chief Of Staff)
2. $140,000 – Frye, Jocelyn C. (Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Projects for the First Lady)
3. $113,000 – Rogers, Desiree G. (Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary)
4. $102,000 – Johnston, Camille Y. (Special Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the First Lady)
5. $102,000 Winter, Melissa E. (Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
6. $90,000 – Medina, David S. (Deputy Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
7. $84,000 – Lelyveld, Catherine M. (Director and Press Secretary to the First Lady)
8. $75,000 – Starkey, Frances M. (Director of Scheduling and Advance for the First Lady)
9. $70,000 – Sanders, Trooper (Deputy Director of Policy and Projects for the First Lady)
10. $65,000 – Burnough, Erinn J. (Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary)
11. $65,000 – Reinstein, Joseph B. (Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary)
12. $62,000 – Goodman, Jennifer R. (Deputy Director of Scheduling and Events Coordinator for the First Lady)
13. $60,000 – Fitts, Alan O. (Deputy Director of Advance and Trip Director for the First Lady)
14. $60,000 – Lewis, Dana M. (Special Assistant and Personal Aide to the First Lady)
15. $52,500 – Mustaphi, Semonti M. (Associate Director and Deputy Press Secretary to the First Lady)
16. $50,000 – Jarvis, Kristen E. (Special Assistant for Scheduling and Traveling Aide to the First Lady)
17. $45,000 – Lechtenberg, Tyler A. (Associate Director of Correspondence for the First Lady)
18. $45,000 – Tubman, Samantha (Deputy Associate Director, Social Office)
19. $40,000 – Boswell, Joseph J. (Executive Assistant to the Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
20. $36,000 – Armbruster, Sally M. (Staff Assistant to the Social Secretary)
21. $36,000 – Bookey, Natalie (Staff Assistant)
22. $36,000 – Jackson, Deilia A. (Deputy Associate Director of Correspondence for the First Lady)
24. Ingrid Grimes-Miles (Makeup artist)

25. Johnny Wright (First Hairstylist)

For the official White House list;

Stimulus dollars find their way to rapists and murderers

“Nobody messes with Joe,” said President Obama about the vice president. When it comes to protecting the $787 billion of stimulus money, eagle-eye Biden was supposed to monitor all the money being sent out. Unbeknownst to the vice president, the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has sent out nearly $1 million to convicted criminals across the country.

In a report from the Boston Herald, the Social Security Inspector General, is now looking into the nearly 4,000 criminals who received $250 checks that were sent out to those residing behind bars.

Spokesperson from the Republican National Committee Sara Sendek said, “President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill has done more to help convicted criminals than it has to actually boost our economy and create jobs.”

I guess crime does pay.

According to a Social Security representative, generally the incarcerated are not able to receive any benefits and none of the prisoners receive monthly Social Security checks which means they should not get any stimulus money.

At least nine of the inmates in Massachusetts that received $250 checks were convicted on crimes ranging from rape to first-degree murder, according to the State Department of Correction.

The $250 checks were mailed out to Social Security beneficiaries, federal railroad retirees and veterans as part of the $13 billion in the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Social Security office says this mistake is relatively small in comparison the overall $787 billion package.

Are these really the people we want running an additional one-sixth of our economy via health care?

For more stories;

Washington continues its power grab in California

Washington continues its power grab in California

By Kimberly Dvorak

San Diego – California’s broke. If there was a state that needed the stimulus money the most, California would be near the top, yet Washington D.C continues its power grab by not releasing the $6.8 billion in promised funds.

The Service Employee International Union’s (SEIU) has filed a complaint against California in Washington with the Obama administration that the state unfairly cut wages by $74 million (1.4 percent of California’s budget) for a group of its healthcare workers.

This same group of 223,000 caregivers pays the SEIU nearly $5 million per month in union dues. According to The Los Angeles Times, this particular program has “loose oversight and bureaucratic inertia that have allowed fraud to fester.”

In effect the federal government wants to run California. “Why do we have governors, mayors and other elected officials if Washington D.C. and the Obama administration can strong arm how we conduct business within the state,” U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray R-Calif. said.

“The intimidation and shake down of Chicago-style politics Obama is using shouldn’t be tolerated,” Bilbray continued. “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shouldn’t back down to these SEIU union officials or the White House.”

When California faces huge deficits and the first decline in state income tax revenue since 1938 the back and forth couldn’t come at a worse time. Also for the first time in the state’s history the largest source for income will not come from sales, property or income taxes, but courtesy of the federal government.

According to a SEIU spokesperson the union donated more than $33 million to get Obama into the White House. “This is political payback pure and simple,” explained Bilbray.

At the time of posting there was no comment from the White House and the $6.8 billion in stimulus money remained in limbo.

“We can’t give into the White House on this. What would be next?” Bilbray finished.

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