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  1. #121
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    The Democrats' 'Fairness' Canard

    Only one group of Americans can make this nation a fairer place: trial lawyers.

    Only one group of Americans can make this nation a fairer place: trial lawyers.

    After all, crushing injustice has enveloped the nation. New Yorkers make more money than Iowans. Female lawyers earn more than male fishermen. People who are 6 feet tall -- and I saw this in a semi-scientific study -- earn, on average, about $5,000 more annually than people who are 5 feet 6 inches tall. Beautiful women populate cable TV news shows, while doughy, middle-aged, pale-skinned columnists are relegated to the Internet and newspapers.

    Unfair, but not ridiculous. For that, we turn to the deeply stupid Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to overcome GOP opposition in the Senate (where Democrats pay female staffers 18 percent less than they do men) this week.

    Let's, for a moment, pretend that laws against discrimination do not already exist. And let's, for the sake of argument, treat the Paycheck Fairness Act as earnest policy meant to alleviate a terrible societal mess rather than a political stunt that allows the White House (where women make about 10K less annually than their male co-workers) to accuse half the country of supporting a patriarchal dictatorship.

    If we do, we can learn a lot about the left's view of human nature, capitalism and choices.

    Apparently, we live in a country dominated by misogynists rather than in one resembling a meritocracy. If there's anything business owners love more than money, it's hating women. Alas, without government, you can never reach your potential. After all, the argument presupposed that the gender pay gap is the result of widespread "discrimination" and "unfairness" -- a matter so serious that a half-dozen senators were driven to news conferences this week to explain how terrible the problem is. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, "There will be Democrats in favor of ending this discrimination, and virtually all Republicans -- and I hope that I'm wrong on this -- are going to vote against it."

    So now, if you don't support a bill that allows lawyers to bore into the souls of employers and discern their motivations, you, my friend, favor discrimination. You know, just like Susan Collins of Maine and the woman haters on the editorial boards of The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.

    Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men do. Period. When there is moral preening to be done, even people who think of themselves as the most thoughtful, sophisticated, non-ideological people on earth -- Democrats in Washington -- won't surrender to the complexity of an issue.

    It is irrelevant that the pay gap may be the result of innocent hiring practices. It doesn't matter if women more often -- and more wisely -- take on fewer unpleasant or physically demanding jobs or that they may often choose careers that weigh the importance of salary differently than the ones men choose or that women -- and blame God or nature or both -- give birth, take career breaks and are more inclined to take part-time jobs to be able to mother those pesky kids.

    As Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute points out, "an analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, commissioned by the Labor Department, found that the so-called wage gap is mostly, and perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make -- different fields of study, different professions, different balances between home and work."

    Do Democrats really believe there is a war on women in the workplace -- in their own offices, no less -- or do they simply want to lord over every aspect of the employer-employee relationship? What's most vitally "fair," it seems, is that Washington try to make the private sector run like a public-sector union shop.

  2. #122
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Thomas Sowell addresses the gender gap in "Economic Facts and Fallacies" and he does a pretty good job of refuting any claim that we need to do "more" in the way of anti-discrimination legislation. This is one of those areas where Democrats definitely have it wrong.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  3. #123
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    I apologize if this doesn't make a lot of sense... My husband is way better at explaining it than I am...
    No need to apologize.

    I'm just flattered you felt comfortable enough to post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaotic Harmony View Post
    The talk about the GI Bill made me read more of this thread... I'm usually not one to comment on this kind of stuff because I'll be honest it's mostly out of my league... BUT... Have you ever looked into Veterans benefits and how much money goes into that whole system?
    I dealt with veterans benefits in Congressman Walsh's Office in the Cannon House Office building.

    I don't have those figures, and am not certain where I would find them outside of a government study that I don't think I would have access to.

    My husband currently works for the Department of Veteran Affairs. He is also currently on VA disability for injuries sustained in Iraq...twice. Anyway, he handles the means test to determine eligibility. He said a big flaw in the current VA disability system is people who are over the age of 65 coming in and saying they have applied to numerous place and nobody will hire them... So that person receives 100% disability because they "want to work, but are unable to obtain a job." The issue has something to do with double dipping by receiving social security and VA disability.. I guess they are afraid to change these laws because of "age discrimination"? I'm all for supporting veterans, but I'm with my husband... There needs to be some tweaks made.
    Oh yes this is the kind of stuff our gov't needs to be worried about as opposed to whether gay people can marry or how much money a presidential candidate makes.

    'm still trying to wrap my head around how the whole system works to be honest. My husband has injuries to both knees. At 33 years old he needs knee replacements. His right knee has minimal cartilage left. He'll likely develop arthritis in that knee before he can find a doctor to do knee replacements. He is at 35% disability right now. He said it would be very easy for him to bump it up to 100% disability, but he would be doing it dishonestly. IF he were to go ahead and say what he needed to say to get the 100% disability.... He would be getting over $3,000 a month tax free from the VA... AND still be able to work AND start receiving his military retirement pay now. Oh... AND have free health insurance for his family. Like I said... I'm all for supporting veterans, but with budgets being so far in debt... I think they really need to make some adjustments to the system.
    Yea that's a huge problem.

    Unfortunately today good governance is confused with being able to vote your constituents largesse. Not to mention that the only answer to problems our gov't understands is spending more $$ on something, not actually trying to see if it could be run better and be more effective.

    Given these problems it's obvious why VA payments are this way, the military has been overrepresented in the political process relative to the general public. This is the exact kind of problem I have with our current political structure. We make laws to benefit groups whether or not those laws benefit the nation as a whole. I know that's a high bar to set, but its at least something that should be striven for.

  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaotic Harmony View Post
    The talk about the GI Bill made me read more of this thread... I'm usually not one to comment on this kind of stuff because I'll be honest it's mostly out of my league... BUT... Have you ever looked into Veterans benefits and how much money goes into that whole system?
    VA Budget Request Tops $140 Billion for Veterans Programs

    WASHINGTON – With more than 1 million active-duty personnel scheduled to join the ranks of America’s 22 million Veterans during the next five years, the President has proposed a $140.3 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

    “As our newest Veterans return home, we must give them the care, the benefits, the job opportunities and the respect they have earned, while honoring our commitments to Veterans of previous eras,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

    Shinseki said the budget proposal, which must be approved by Congress, would fund services for newly discharged Veterans, continue the drive to end homelessness among Veterans, improve access to benefits and services, reduce the disability claims backlog, improve the Department’s collaboration with the Defense Department and strengthen its information-technology program that is vital for delivering services to Veterans.

    “As we turn the page on a decade of war, we are poised at an historic moment for our Nation’s armed forces,” Shinseki said. “The President has charged VA to keep faith with those who served when they rejoin civilian life.”

    The budget request includes $64 billion in discretionary funds, mostly for medical care, and $76 billion for mandatory funds, mostly for disability compensation and pensions.

    If approved by Congress, the new spending levels would support a health care system with 8.8 million enrollees and growing benefits programs serving nearly 12 million Servicemembers, Veterans, family members and survivors, including the eighth largest life insurance program in the nation; education benefits for more than 1 million Americans; home loan guarantees for more than 1.5 million Veterans and survivors; plus the largest national cemetery system in the country.

    Here are highlights from the President’s 2013 budget request for VA.

    Medical Care

    The President’s proposed budget seeks $52.7 billion for medical care, a 4.1 percent increase over the $50.6 billion approved by Congress for the current fiscal year, and a net increase of $165 million above the advance appropriations level already enacted for FY 2013.

    For the next fiscal year, VA estimates 6.33 million patients will use VA for health care. About 610,000 of those patients will be Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget request also would provide:

    ·$403 million for the gender-specific health care needs of women Veterans, improving their access to services and treatment facilities;

    ·$6.2 billion for mental health, a 5.3 percent increase in funding over the current level, making possible increased outreach and screenings, expansion of innovative technologies for self-assessment and symptom management of post-traumatic stress disorder, and enhancements to programs that reduce the stigmas of mental health;

    ·$7.2 billion for long-term care, meeting VA’s commitment to provide long-term care in the least restrictive and most clinically appropriate settings, such as non-institutional programs that serve a daily population of about 120,000 people;

    ·$583 million in direct appropriations for medical research, which receives another $1.3 billion from other sources, with emphasis on research for traumatic brain injury, suicide prevention, PTSD and genomic medicine;

    ·$792 million to support the activation of health care facilities, including new hospitals in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Denver and Orlando, Fla.

    Funding in VA’s major construction account of $396.6 million is provided to continue construction of new medical facilities at Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis and Palo Alto, Calif.

    Since enactment of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act in 2009, VA includes an advance appropriations request for medical care in the Budget submission. Included in today’s spending request is $54.5 billion for FY 2014, which begins Oct. 1, 2013. This request for advance appropriations will support nearly 6.38 million unique patients and fulfill our commitment to Veterans to provide timely and accessible high-quality medical services. The Administration will review the initial advance appropriations request in the FY 2014 budget cycle.

    Veterans Job Corps

    The 2013 budget proposes $1 billion over five years for a Veterans Job Corps, a new effort to leverage skills Veterans developed in military service for a range of jobs protecting and rebuilding America’s public lands. The initiative would put up to 20,000 Veterans to work on projects to restore America’s lands and resources.

    Disability Pay, Pensions

    In the next fiscal year, VA projects it will receive about 1,250,000 claims for Veterans disability benefits. This is a 4 percent increase from the 1.2 million projected for this fiscal year.

    Shinseki noted that today’s claims from Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on average, total 8.5 disabilities per Veteran, a rate nearly double that for claims by Veterans of earlier eras and a substantial increase in the workload for VA employees who administer the benefits system.

    By 2013, the budget projects no more than 40 percent of compensation and pension claims will be more than 125 days old, a significant cut from the 60 percent of claims exceeding that mark this year. Other improvements funded by the new budget include:

    ·A new case-management operating model that moves less complicated claims more quickly through the system;

    ·Additional eBenefits self-service features that allow registered Servicemembers, Veterans and their families to apply for benefits and manage certain aspects of their benefits accounts online;

    ·Publicly available electronic medical questionnaires that allow private physicians to provide VA with exactly the information needed for Veterans claims for disability compensation; and

    ·National implementation of a system for processing disability claims that will have all of VA’s regional offices, working in a digital, near-paperless environment by the end of 2013.



    Veterans Homelessness

    The proposed VA budget for fiscal year 2013 contains nearly $1.4 billion for programs that prevent or treat homelessness among Veterans. This is an increase of 33 percent, or $333 million, over the 2012 level, continuing the Department’s steady progress toward ending Veteran homelessness by 2015.

    In the past year, the number of Veterans homeless on a given night has declined from 76,300 in 2010 to about 67,500 in 2011. By emphasizing rescue and prevention, the budget request envisions driving down the numbers to 35,000 by the end of fiscal year 2013. Some specific efforts funded in the new budget are:

    ·$21 million to provide 200 coordinators who will help homeless Veterans with disability claims, housing problems, job and vocational opportunities, and problems with the courts;

    ·$300 million to provide grants and technical assistance to community non-profits to maintain Veterans and their families in their current housing or to get them rapidly into housing;

    ·Provide grants and per diem payments to community-based organizations offering transitional housing to 32,000 homeless Veterans; and

    ·Build upon the recent success of a VA hiring fair in Washington, D.C., which drew about 4,000 Veterans and has led to about 500 hiring offers to date.

    Education Program

    The Post-9/11 GI Bill will help pay the educational expenses of more than 606,000 Servicemembers, Veterans, family members and survivors during the next fiscal year. Over the past two years, VA has successfully deployed a new IT system to support processing of Post-9/11 GI Bill education claims, and has seen a dramatic improvement in the timeliness and accuracy of its processing program during the same period.

    A separate funding increase of nearly $9 million would expand the “VetSuccess on Campus” program from 28 campuses to 80, serving approximately 80,000 Veterans. The program provides outreach and supportive services during their transition from the military to college.

    Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

    The budget request for 2013 would provide $233 million, a 14 percent increase over 2012, to administer VA’s vocational rehabilitation and employment program. The increase is focused on expanding services to wounded, ill and injured Servicemembers to ease their transition to the civilian sector. Program participants are expected to increase from 108,000 in 2011 to 130,000 next fiscal year.

    National Cemeteries

    Fiscal year 2013 will see $258 million for operation and maintenance of VA’s system of 131 national cemeteries if the budget proposal is accepted. The budget supports the initial implementation of a new policy to establish a national cemetery presence in eight rural areas.

    Funding in VA’s Minor Construction budget request would finance $58 million for land acquisition, gravesite expansion and columbaria projects. Also included in the budget request is funding for online mapping of gravesite locations from the IT account.

    With a funding request of $46 million, VA will continue its partnership with the states by funding the construction, expansion and improvement of state Veterans cemeteries, while continuing its support to Veterans cemeteries on tribal lands.

    Information Technology

    The 2013 budget proposal includes $3.3 billion for information technology, a $216 million increase over the current budget. VA operates one of the largest consolidated IT organizations in the world, supporting over 300,000 VA employees and about 10 million Veterans and family members who use VA programs. About 80 percent of the IT budget supports the direct delivery of health care and benefits to Veterans and their families.

    The Department will build upon its unparalleled success rate of 89 percent on-time delivery of IT milestones by continued improvements in support of access to health care, ending Veterans homelessness and improved benefits delivery. VA will implement the integrated Electronic Health Record with Department of Defense, easing the transition from active status to the VA health care system by upgrading electronic health records for all Veterans to a single, common platform.

    IT funding will enable VBA’s transformation to a digital and near paperless environment using the Veterans Benefits Management System, decreasing claims processing times by 50 percent, while VA’s telehealth programs will take advantage of new IT technologies, increasing VA’s ability to provide health care to Veterans in remote locations.

  5. #125
    Senior Member Chaotic Harmony's Avatar
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    Impressive. I dare say I've finally met a level-headed Conservative. Normally, I only get the pleasure of speaking with ones that foam at the mouth with hatred. Most of the liberal leaning folks I've met are hippies, so they tend to foam at the mouth with other stuff. I've always been an independent, which can be pretty frustrating... I personally hate the two-party system. I believe, like the unions, that it served its purpose years ago and it's now time to retire it and find a new system. We have so many third parties....yet because of the way the system is they'll never make it to a senator/governor level (most likely), let alone president.

    It kind of sickens me to see the numbers that go into the VA programs.... And it's mainly because of the people that abuse the system. My husband gets people on a daily basis that come in and claim to have been in Vietnam or the Gulf War, and when he looks them up they never even made it through basic training. Which...for someone who has done three tours in Iraq is a slap in the face. Just like with welfare, the VA needs some improvements to their processes. I'm all for helping veterans....that truly need it. I am glad that they changed it (I think, at least) to where you had to have been in for so long to receive VA benefits. So, in other words, if you made it through basic training and then dropped out you don't get the benefits. Again, I think that's the way it is now. Just like welfare.... I do believe there are people that truly need it, but it definitely needs an overhaul. I've got some pretty harsh views on welfare that a lot of the liberal-minded folks I've dealt with would probably call me heartless for, but that's another post waiting to happen.


  6. #126
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    From David Frum's Column over at the Daily Beast:

    The "Wealth Creators" Are Winning

    This is handy. Henry Blodget of Business Insider compiles in one place the charts showing the ominous divergence between the fortunes of working America and ownership America:






    We hear a lot of fulminations about the menace of redistribution and the threat to "wealth creators." It's worth remembering that the wealthiest have been winning the distributional fights. Worth remembering too that the promise implied by the phrase "American dream" was not that a lucky few would gain staggering success, but that the broad many could, with reasonable effort, gain comfort and security: the "best poor man's country in the world" in an 18th century phrase.
    Frum is a Conservative. Some of us agree with you guys on wealth inequality.

    We are not necessarily on opposite sides of this issue.

  7. #127
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    From the Daily Beast:

    Rip Van Winkle Economics



    There's an ancient corny joke: How do you get down off an elephant? Answer, you don't get down off an elephant, you get down off a duck.

    A lot of our economic debate takes the form of getting down off a duck, such as, for example, today's oped in the Wall Street Journal by Phil Gramm and Glenn Hubbard.

    Here are two of the smartest men on the economic right, one a former chairman of the Senate banking committee, the other a former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

    Yet they insist on treating today's economic crisis as a repeat of 1979-81—and Europe's agony as a debt crisis (which it isn't), not a currency crisis (which it is).

    Why? Well you will consider only one policy solution—cut taxes and regulations—then you must insist that there can be only one policy problem.

    Yet in almost every way, today's economic problems are exactly the opposite of those of 30 years ago. Then we had inflation, today we are struggling against deflation. Then we had weak corporate profits, today corporations are more profitable than ever. Then we had slow productivity growth, today it is high. Then the to-individual income-tax rate was 70%. Today it is 36%. Then energy regulations produced energy shortages. Today the removal of banking regulations has produced an abundance of debt.

    Europe's problems are especially difficult to address on the Wall Street Journal, because they are caused by exactly following that paper's editorial advice. That paper fiercely advocated the Euro currency, without which today's European sovereign-debt problems would be manageable in every economy except Greece's.

    One of the saddest ill effects of age is that the brain freezes in patterns set long ago. The mind finds it difficult to acknowledge new realities, much less devise or even accept new solutions. And as our societies age, such brain freezes becoming an ever more endemic challenge to the making of sound public policy.

    As Macchiavelli wrote 500 years ago: "For this is the tragedy of man: circumstances change and he does not."

  8. #128
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    Why the Euro Crisis Matters to Americans

    Bush campaign adviser Mark McKinnon on the perilous state of the global economy.

    How arrogant our European partners must think we are to lecture them on balancing growth with fiscal discipline when we have mastered neither.

    In May, the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent. Our already sluggish GDP numbers were revised down. Initial claims for jobless benefits rose. Fewer than expected private-sector jobs were created. Job cuts actually climbed. And 23 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed.

    Yet, as our national debt clock ticks toward $16 trillion, the message from the White House this week is that Europe needs to take more steps to tackle its debt and economic woes.

    “Back at you,” might be an appropriate response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a country that witnessed a first-quarter GDP surge.

    Yet as my colleague Jack Martin, global chairman and chief executive of H+K Strategies, recently wrote: “Europe’s problems are the world’s problems.”


    He’s right. In our increasingly interconnected world, mounting debt in Greece, austerity fatigue in France, and anti-incumbency sentiment in Germany all have a direct impact on the United States. And the growing unrest among Europeans, along with the gyrations of stock markets around the world, remains a cautionary tale for America, where deadlines loom.

    In December, we will hit the debt ceiling once again. The Bush tax cuts and payroll-tax cuts will expire and automatic cuts kick in from the last failed debt-ceiling negotiations. The economy is facing a mammoth $607 billion hit in 2013.

    “There's now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now,” said President Obama after economic talks with Europe’s leaders at Camp David two weeks ago.
    The president is correct. Growth is needed. But growth can mean very different things: growth through increased deficit spending, as tried in Greece with disastrous effects; growth through spending cuts, as tried in Germany, where frustration about supporting fellow Europeans is mounting; and, growth through tax increases as the new president of France proposes, the results of which have yet to be seen.

    With the upcoming election and the future of the nation—even of the world—at stake, a balance of growth strategies is needed in the U.S. For Americans, jobs and the economy are the top concern. A majority of people in this country are already dissatisfied with the size and power of the federal government. They prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.

    Turning one dial alone will not tune the economy. Continued deficit spending will take us down the path to Greece. Tax increases like those proposed in France will take us down a similar path, albeit more slowly. And budget cuts without structural reforms will only postpone the trip.

    Europe’s definition of austerity—relying on tax increases alone—will not work here, as evidenced by California’s current woes. A balanced approach is needed with increased government spending in some areas, budget cuts in others, increased tax revenues not rates, and the hardest of all, structural reforms.

    Two balanced plans have already been put on the table. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wis.) has proposed a budget, which was approved in the House last year “to preempt austerity by getting our borrowing under control, having tax reform for economic growth and preventing Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid from going bankrupt.” Meanwhile, the Simpson-Bowles Plan, a bipartisan effort, utilizing both cuts and revenue increases, was handed to President Obama. Unfortunately, partisan politics prevailed and neither plan gained any traction.

    “The breakdown of responsible budgeting is clear: out-of-control government spending; four consecutive trillion-dollar deficits; and a crushing burden of debt in the years ahead,” Ryan said last week at the opening of a House Budget Committee hearing.

    “Both political parties share in the blame for our fiscal mess,” he added. “I believe it will require both political parties to work together to find common ground and right this fiscal ship.”

    Ryan’s metaphor is apt. The alarm bells are sounding on the Titanic. The Dow ended last week down, losing all the ground it had gained for the year. And markets in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Japan, and China continue to roil. Our economic and political problems are theirs. And their economic and political problems are ours. The iceberg is dead ahead. The fiddling must end. It’s time to call all hands on deck to prevent the U.S.S. Economy from going down.

  9. #129
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    From Politico:

    Secret talks under way about 'fiscal cliff'

    A growing number of lawmakers are alarmed that Congress’s do-nothing posture ahead of the year-end fiscal cliff could provoke a massive voter backlash and economic catastrophe if they don’t start laying the groundwork right now to cut a deal.

    So behind the scenes, there’s a scramble taking shape.

    A dozen senators ranging from Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn to Delaware Democrat Chris Coons have begun to organize closed-door briefings with leading economic experts to prod Congress into action. Some lawmakers like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are quietly pushing to have a major tax and budget package ready by September so a bill can be introduced immediately after the November elections and passed by Christmas. Others like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have taken matters into their own hands by privately preparing bills they hope will shape the post-election debate.

    “There’s a genuine concern that a downturn in Europe or another place will force our hand: It’s far better for us to start working on this earlier rather than later, and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told POLITICO. “If we can present something immediately after the election that is a good solid starting point, I think it’s going to restore confidence in the business community.”

    (Also on POLITICO: Congress flummoxed by can't-miss bills)

    The uptick in back-channel talks reflects a growing recognition that the differences over the intractable tax, deficit and entitlement issues must be narrowed ahead of November if there’s any chance to meet a critical Jan. 1 deadline — the so-called fiscal cliff — when $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts take effect and Bush-era tax cuts expire on individual tax rates, capital gains and dividends. On top of that, Congress must deal with a hodgepodge of expired business tax breaks and the likelihood that the U.S. will once again hit its debt ceiling, provoking a major fight over the conditions for increasing the federal borrowing limit.

    Above all else, they say, these summer talks must be done secretly and never be made public for fear that any new proposals could get swept into the highly toxic partisan atmosphere ahead of a historic presidential election. The secret talks might allow Democrats to entertain deeper cuts to entitlements than they usually would, and Republicans could talk more candidly about increasing tax revenues — without either side getting blasted in the political arena.

    “Everyone is kind of holding their cards because we realize that it’s not game time yet,” said Corker, who has spent the past five months privately drafting a bill resembling the 2010 proposal authored by the chairmen of the White House deficit commission, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson. That $4 trillion deficit-cutting plan would lower individual and corporate tax rates but raise revenue by eliminating tax deductions and make changes to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

    Skeptics, of course, say they’ve heard this all before. The Senate “gangs,” the supercommittee, the deficit commission itself — all of those failed. Durbin and five other senators have been privately meeting since the beginning of 2011 in the hope that the so-called Gang of Six could produce a $4 trillion proposal — but the group never even introduced a bill.

    On top of that, the issues are hardly ones that can be dealt with expeditiously. Sharp philosophical differences — whether to raise taxes, how deeply to cut into expensive entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid, the extent to which defense programs should be spared and the level to cap federal discretionary spending levels — have divided the two parties for the better part of a generation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reiterated this week that he would only acquiesce to Republican demands to reverse automatic defense cuts if the GOP agreed to consider new taxes, a call immediately rejected by GOP leaders.

    A temporary extension of all the Bush tax cuts, as Bill Clinton initially suggested this week, may be all that Congress can muster in a post-election period.

    Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the Gang of Six, said in an interview that it “might make some sense” to extend all the taxes in the short term if lawmakers need more time to fundamentally reform the current corporate and individual tax system.

    “But on a short-term basis, … I think something like that is going to have to be done,” he said of a temporary tax cut extension.

    And even if the deal-making types like Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) gain momentum, their efforts may very well be ignored by House and Senate leaders and the winner of the battle between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

    Still, if there’s a critical mass of lawmakers in the rank and file with their own plan, some say, it would make it harder for the White House and Hill leaders to jam Congress. And that makes the next three months crucial for lawmakers who want to avoid a repeat of the situation that surrounded the Budget Control Act, a deal struck by a handful of leaders and the White House and passed on the eve of a debt default last August despite having barely been vetted on Capitol Hill.

    “The question people have is whether we can govern,” Alexander said. “If a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans say, ‘President Obama or Gov. Romney, we want you to succeed because if you do, the country succeeds,’ then we are likely to succeed.”

    On the first floor of the Senate on Tuesday, the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, and the president of the New York Federal Reserve, William Dudley, implored the more than 30 lawmakers in attendance to begin preparing for a major tax-and-spending deal as conditions in Europe worsened.

    “What’s critical is that we use this time between now and the elections to do our homework so we are ready to act after the election,” Conrad said.

    Some Republicans — like Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey — are beginning to draft legislation that would overhaul individual tax rates. And in the House, there have been some informal conversations between top GOP officials and Romney campaign aides on how to handle the fiscal cliff during the lame-duck session, sources say.

    “Obviously, Mitt Romney will have a lot to do with what kind of tax reform that we can affect,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. “We can’t, seeing where we’ve been with this administration and the Senate, we’re not under any illusions that they’re going to embrace our kind of tax reform.”

    But already, the House has taken a series of actions to bolster the chamber’s negotiating position after the elections. The chamber passed a bill last month to overhaul the automatic spending cuts that would slice $600 billion out of national security programs, and Republicans included language in a defense policy bill to ensure that the issue remains in play during conference negotiations with the Senate.

    On top of that, the House is teeing up votes this summer on extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts, and House leaders plan to seize on a plan under development by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) as its leading GOP proposal to overhaul the Tax Code.

    Similarly, in the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to lay out his vision for tax reform in a highly anticipated speech next week before the Bipartisan Policy Center, comments that can help shape the course of the lame-duck session. And once the primary is over for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch later this month, the ranking Republican on the tax-writing committee and Baucus will begin to more seriously engage in end-of-the-year talks, senators say.

    “Leadership, political courage,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said when asked what it would take to reach a deal on taxes and spending. “If we really want to get enough votes in the Senate to avoid more cuts in defense spending, which will I think jeopardize national security, then you need Democratic votes, and you’re not going to get them unless there’s some increase in revenue.”
    I think political courage is just the right word.

    Hopefully we have enough cool heads in congress that this process can work, even if it does have to be in secret.

  10. #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaotic Harmony View Post
    Impressive. I dare say I've finally met a level-headed Conservative.
    Why thank you.

    Normally, I only get the pleasure of speaking with ones that foam at the mouth with hatred. Most of the liberal leaning folks I've met are hippies, so they tend to foam at the mouth with other stuff. I've always been an independent, which can be pretty frustrating... I personally hate the two-party system. I believe, like the unions, that it served its purpose years ago and it's now time to retire it and find a new system. We have so many third parties....yet because of the way the system is they'll never make it to a senator/governor level (most likely), let alone president.
    The pleasure was all mine.

    It kind of sickens me to see the numbers that go into the VA programs.... And it's mainly because of the people that abuse the system. My husband gets people on a daily basis that come in and claim to have been in Vietnam or the Gulf War, and when he looks them up they never even made it through basic training. Which...for someone who has done three tours in Iraq is a slap in the face. Just like with welfare, the VA needs some improvements to their processes. I'm all for helping veterans....that truly need it. I am glad that they changed it (I think, at least) to where you had to have been in for so long to receive VA benefits. So, in other words, if you made it through basic training and then dropped out you don't get the benefits. Again, I think that's the way it is now. Just like welfare.... I do believe there are people that truly need it, but it definitely needs an overhaul. I've got some pretty harsh views on welfare that a lot of the liberal-minded folks I've dealt with would probably call me heartless for, but that's another post waiting to happen.
    Like I say fairly frequently, the answer has always been in the middle (not the left or the right).

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