Posted by Kendall Harmon

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern about the plight of Christian communities in Syria, especially the depopulation of the Armenian community of Kessab, stating: “While Syrians of all religious communities are caught up in this horrible conflict, of particular concern to us are the Christian communities, which are often the most vulnerable.”

“One situation that has just come to our attention is the attack on the Armenian villages of Kessab. Though this attack comes in the wider context of the overall Syrian conflict, it nevertheless has brought death and destruction to the Christian communities there,” the NCC letter reads in part. The letter specifically urges the President to “safeguard the vulnerable Christian communities” and to “restore stability to the Armenian communities of Kessab.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical Relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia next week, he will have an opportunity to follow through on his inspiring words at the Feb. 6. National Prayer Breakfast. There, he told thousands of Christian leaders that "the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose" is central to "human dignity," and so "promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy."

The freedom so central to human dignity is denied by the Kingdom. The State Department has long ranked Saudi Arabia among the world's most religiously repressive governments, designating it a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act. Yet the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has not pressed Riyadh to respect religious freedom.

Saudi Arabia is the only state in the world to ban all churches and any other non-Muslim houses of worship. While Saudi nationals are all "officially" Muslim, some two to three million foreign Christians live in the kingdom, many for decades. They have no rights to practice their faith.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSaudi Arabia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For decades a school of American strategists has bewailed what they call the nation's military "overreach" and urged a radical reduction in defense spending as good for world peace.

We are about to find out if they were right.

On the other side of the argument, proponents of a strong military noted that it is the U.S. military's presence abroad, backed by strong reinforcements, that has put a lid on regional wars and kept the sea lanes open.

And that, in turn, has created peaceful conditions necessary for an historic expansion of world trade that has lifted billions out of poverty and kept the United States the world's strongest economy.

We are also about to find out if they were wrong.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

1 Comments
Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

About 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans on Obamacare exchanges through the end of February, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will hit lowered enrollment estimates in the program’s first year.

Whatever momentum was building in January appeared to drop off in February, as the number of sign ups fell below the administration's expectations. The numbers -- which were released a day before Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on the Hill -- also show young people aren't enrolling at rates officials had predicted. That group is key because they are generally presumed to be healthier and less costly.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast - and one is reluctant to criticize....

[but]...many in the audience were reaching for their own jaws when Obama got to the liberty section of his speech, according to several people who attended the breakfast. Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, summed up the general reaction of many with whom he spoke: "Stunned."

"Several people said afterward how encouraged they would have been by President Obama's remarks if only his acts reflected what he said," Cromartie told me.

One table was applauding only out of politeness, according to Jerry Pattengale, who was sitting with Steve Green - president of the Hobby Lobby stores that have challenged Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. Pattengale described the experience as "surrealistic."

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public does not think the United States has achieved its goals in either country. About half of Americans (52%) say the U.S. has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan while 38% say it has mostly succeeded. Opinions about the U.S. war in Iraq are virtually the same: 52% say the United States has mostly failed in reaching its goals there, while 37% say it has mostly succeeded.

In both cases, evaluations of the wars have turned more negative in recent years. In November 2011, as the U.S. was completing its military withdrawal from Iraq, a majority (56%) thought the U.S. had achieved its goals there.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident George BushPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 30, 2014 at 7:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Entitlements and a cure for America’s long-term fiscal imbalance, once ostensibly key Obama concerns, no longer rank as priorities. And in a speech devoted overwhelmingly to domestic issues, Mr. Obama spent just enough time on foreign policy to demonstrate again his determination to limit U.S. commitments in the Middle East. He stressed the end of U.S. military interventions, particularly in Afghanistan, and he vowed to veto any move by Congress to sanction Iran pending his top priority, negotiations on its nuclear programs. He had little to say about ongoing turmoil in Egypt and even less about growing tensions in East Asia.

Read it all. Also, I thought Dana Milbank's analysis was interesting: "The address was an implicit acknowledgment that his once-grand legislative ambitions are over." You may find the text of the speech itself here.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama


Posted January 29, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As undignified as it is unedifying and unnecessary, the vulgar State of the Union circus is again at our throats. The document that the Constitutional Convention sent forth from Philadelphia for ratification in 1787 was just 4,543 words long, but this was 17 too many. America would be a sweeter place if the Framers had not included this laconic provision pertaining to the president: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted January 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted January 23, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans see little prospect that President Barack Obama and Congress can get much done beyond keeping the government open for the next few months.

A Bloomberg National Poll finds 78 percent of respondents say the political gridlock in Washington will hurt the nation’s economy in 2014.

Large majorities say they want the government to ensure the new health-care law functions well, that policy makers agree to revise the tax code, and that an accord is reached to provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Yet most doubt those things can be accomplished in the current political environment...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 12, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Healthcare.gov seems to be working better for consumers, relatively, but it is not clear that it works for insurers (in which case it doesn’t work for consumers either, as they are trying to buy insurance). Insurers have long said that they are receiving botched enrolment forms, or 834s, if they receive them at all. On December 2nd health officials said they had fixed a problem that accounted for 80% of the glitches with 834s. But they would not confirm what share of 834s were being bungled, so it is hard to know the fix’s importance.

If the site is working better for consumers, as it seems to be, shoppers may rush to sign up for insurance before Mr Obama’s deadline of December 23rd. They will expect coverage to kick in just a few days later, on January 1st. That gives insurers little time to process 834s, even if they are sent without problems, let alone deal with garbled forms. Mr Obama’s goals for health reform have always been laudable. But the gruelling, technical job of enrolment will be the big story for some time yet.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted December 5, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Remarkably, the Obama administration has backtracked from the position taken by the Reagan administration. It now argues that even explicitly sectarian prayers are permissible. Congress and state legislatures have prayers, but they are supposed to be and usually are nondenominational, and they are delivered to legislators rather than a captive audience of the broader citizenry assembled to do business before the board.

Given the state of the law, the importance of religious inclusivity and the facts of this case, I assumed that if the Obama administration participated at all, it would side with the plaintiffs. But the administration did just the opposite. In fact, because this is a suit not involving the federal government, it did not need to participate at all. It's hard to fathom how the administration arrived at its conclusion, and I hope the Supreme Court will reject it.

I hope the court will take to heart the words of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who shortly before she stepped down from the court wrote in a decision: "At a time when we see around the world the violent consequences of the assumption of religious authority by government, Americans may count themselves fortunate. ... Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

0 Comments
Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

2--At its root Social Security is, and always has been, an inter-generational transfer of wealth....

4--...since 2010 Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts; negative cash flow last year was about $55 billion, according to the latest report from the system’s trustees. While credited interest is still more than enough to cover the deficit, that will only be true until 2020. After that, Social Security will begin redeeming its hoard of Treasuries for cash to continue paying benefits — as was the plan all along.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 20, 2013 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Public trust in the government, already quite low, has edged even lower in a survey conducted just before the Oct. 16 agreement to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

Trust in Government Again Near All-Time LowJust 19% say that they trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time, down seven points since January. The current measure matches the level reached in August 2011, following the last battle over the debt ceiling. Explore a Pew Research interactive on Public Trust in Government: 1958-2013.

The share of the public saying they are angry at the federal government, which equaled an all-time high in late September (26%), has ticked up to 30%. Another 55% say they are frustrated with the government. Just 12% say they are basically content with the federal government.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident George BushPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Stan Druckenmiller makes an unlikely class warrior. He's a member of the 1%—make that the 0.001%—one of the most successful money managers of all time, and 60 years old to boot. But lately he has been touring college campuses promoting a message of income redistribution you don't hear out of Washington. It's how federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are letting Mr. Druckenmiller's generation rip off all those doting Barack Obama voters in Generation X, Y and Z.

"I have been shocked at the reception. I had planned to only visit Bowdoin, " his alma mater in Maine, he says. But he has since been invited to multiple campuses, and even the kids at Stanford and Berkeley have welcomed his theme of generational theft. Harlem Children's Zone President Geoffrey Canada and former Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh have joined him at stops along the tour.

Mr. Druckenmiller describes the reaction of students: "The biggest question I got was, 'How do we start a movement?' And my answer was 'I'm a 60-year-old washed-up money manager. I don't know how to start a movement. That's your job. But we did it in Vietnam without Twitter and without Facebook and without any social media. That's your job.' But the enthusiasm—they get it."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMiddle AgeYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted October 19, 2013 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Standard & Poor’s is only raising half a cheer at the deal:

“We believe that to date, the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 per cent off of annualised fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24bn out of the economy.

“The short turnround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will probably weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

Read it all (if necessary another link is there).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We took some bread crumbs and left an entire meal on the table,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “This has been a really bad two weeks for the Republican Party”--From the online version of last night's New York Times
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Looks like it will go through Jan 15, and there will be a panel create to work on deficit reduction.

One of many tweets:

‏@j_strong
“It’s all over. We’ll take Senate deal" ... “People are thinking about primaries, they really are"


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

8 Comments
Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Top Senate leaders on Monday said they were within striking distance of a deal to sidestep a looming debt crisis and reopen the federal government two weeks after a partisan deadlock forced it to close.

Fourteen days after a partial government shutdown began, senators signaled a bipartisan resolution could come soon.

"I'm very optimistic we will reach an agreement that's reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation's bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said on the Senate floor.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What started as a mad dash to strike a deal to lift the federal debt limit slowed to a crawl over the weekend as stalemated Senate leaders waited nervously to see whether financial markets would plunge Monday morning and drive the other side toward compromise.

Republicans seemed to think they had more to lose. After talks broke down between President Obama and House leaders, GOP senators quickly cobbled together a plan to end the government shutdown — now entering its third week — and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then asked Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to elevate negotiations to the highest level.

On Sunday — with the Treasury Department due to exhaust its borrowing power in just four days — Reid was wielding that leverage to maximum advantage. Rather than making concessions that would undermine Obama’s signature health-care initiative, as Republicans first demanded, Democrats are now on the offensive and seeking to undo what has become a cherished prize for the GOP: deep agency spending cuts known as the sequester.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

4 Comments
Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Senate's top two leaders have asserted control over budget negotiations with the White House for a deal to reopen the federal government and avoid a default on the nation's debt.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met Saturday morning with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to begin preliminary discussions.

"I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and to the world," Reid said. "This should be seen as something very positive, even though we don't have anything done yet."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted October 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A proposal from Sen. Susan Collins is emerging as one potential way to dig lawmakers out of a government shutdown and possibly also avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

The moderate Maine Republican, whose vote will be essential to any fiscal deal, is circulating a rough plan to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and provide agencies with greater flexibility in implementing the sequester. The initial reception has been positive and may be the beginnings of a bipartisan solution to end the intractable impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Collins said Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who are also being watched as potential GOP votes to end the fiscal standoff, have signed onto the proposal. And Collins said she has spoken to “several Democrats” about her plan, which she hopes “at least provides concepts that could be the basis for us reopening government.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.

More than 90 Catholic, evangelical and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.

Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A senior Chinese official has warned that the "clock is ticking" to avoid a US default that could hurt China's interests and the global economy.

China, the US's largest creditor, is "naturally concerned about developments in the US fiscal cliff", vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said.

Washington must agree a deal to raise its borrowing limit by 17 October, or risk being unable to pay its bills.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankG20 Stock MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAsiaChina

2 Comments
Posted October 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The work that Shaun O'Connell does is required by law, yet now he's sidelined by the government shutdown.

O'Connell reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration in New York, checking that no one's gaming the system, while ensuring people with legitimate medical problems are compensated properly.

Billions of dollars are at stake with this kind of work, yet O'Connell is considered a nonessential employee for purposes of the partial government shutdown.

"If you stick with the semantics of essential and nonessential, you could easily be offended," says O'Connell, who has worked for Social Security for 20 years.

Read or listen to it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted October 6, 2013 at 6:48 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Obamacare is not primarily an entitlement program. The entitlement component — the exchange subsidies — will involve about 2 percent of Americans during the first year. (Others will be added to Medicaid, which has been around since 1965.) About 20 million Americans will eventually get subsidized insurance — a check that goes not to the individual but to insurance companies. The remaining 170 million Americans will not experience Obama­care as a sugary treat but as a series of complex regulatory changes that may make their existing insurance more costly, less generous and less secure.

The main problem with Obamacare is not its addictive generosity; it is its poor, unsustainable design. Its finances depend on forcing large numbers of young and healthy people to buy insurance — yet it makes their insurance more costly and securing coverage less urgent. (Because you can get coverage during each year’s enrollment period at the same price whether you’re healthy or sick, the incentive to buy coverage when healthy is much diminished.)

Heavy insurance regulations will lead some employers to restructure their plans, dump employees into the public exchanges or make greater use of part-time workers. In order to meet a few worthy goals — helping the poor buy insurance and covering preexisting conditions — Obamacare seems destined to destabilize much of our current health system.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted October 6, 2013 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Episcopal bishop of Washington is inviting any couples who had to cancel their weddings on federal property due to the government shutdown to have their ceremonies in a garden at Washington National Cathedral.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde said Thursday that the Bishop’s Garden at the cathedral would be offered free of charge to any couples who wanted to hold wedding ceremonies outdoors.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the eve of a possible shutdown of the U.S. government, religious leaders denounced the political brinkmanship prevailing in Congress today.

"Shutting down the government will do real damage," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking at a press conference today. "Risking our nation's creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy."

Unless our nation's leaders come to an agreement on appropriations for the coming months, the U.S. government will close on Oct. 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year. If no agreement is reached by Oct. 17 on increasing the debt limit, the country's creditworthiness will be compromised.

Read it all and follow the link at the bottom to the letter to see the actual signatories.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 4, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Biologist Louis Burnett had to move his lab students to a conference room across the parking lot at Fort Johnson. His federal lab, animals and cell cultures are under lock and key.

Burnett’s dilemma is a case example of the ripple effect of the ongoing federal shutdown. As the shutdown enters its third day, the clock keeps ticking insistently for any number of people who don’t work for the federal government but find themselves on the outs because of the political standoff.

Burnett is a research professor at the College of Charleston. But like others in a cadre of college and state researchers, he collaborates on studies, shares office space and makes use of the equipment at the Hollings Marine Lab and the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted October 3, 2013 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

1. The shutdown is unlikely to last long. In the past government shutdowns typically lasted a few days, with the most being 21 when the Republican Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, took on Bill Clinton in 1995.

This stance defies logic. If the reform law is so flawed, why not try to make it better? Why not wait till the law takes full effect and its failure becomes obvious, at which point it could be repealed through less destructive means—without endangering the entire economy?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

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Posted October 1, 2013 at 7:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The good news is that so far, all we have is political posturing. History suggest that nothing happens until at least 12 hours after our September 30th midnight deadline. No one gets serious about any sort of deal before noon on October 1. At that point, political pressure on the House Republicans — from constituents, from Business leaders, and from elder statesmen — will start in earnest. A few days later, it can become more intense. We see the same sort of patterns with the debt ceiling limit as well (that’s schedule to hit at midnight October 17).

As NBC’s Pete Williams have reported, we have had 17 prior government shutdowns over the past 40 years, including 21 days in 1995 (table below). So while this feels like its new and unusual, it is actually more commonplace than most of us believe.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

16 Comments
Posted September 30, 2013 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The federal government moved closer to a partial shutdown Sunday as Republican and Democratic lawmakers showed no signs of negotiating through a standoff over the implementation of President Barack Obama's health law.

The standoff left little prospect that Congress could reach agreement on terms for funding the government by midnight Monday, when the current fiscal year expires. A shutdown would leave essential services operating but prompt federal agencies to suspend many functions and furlough hundreds of thousands of workers.

Early Sunday morning, after a late night of votes, the House passed a bill delaying the health law by one year and attached it to a plan to fund the government through Dec. 15. It also includes a provision repealing a tax on medical devices that is intended to help finance the health law. That legislation now goes back to the Senate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Earlier today, I spoke with Larry Summers and accepted his decision to withdraw his name from consideration for Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Larry was a critical contributor to the radical deregulation that was one of many causes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It was in no small part because of his lack of expertise, false wisdom, and inept leadership that the economy crashed and burned and even today is still failing to be to back to its full growth potential.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal ReservePolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted September 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a “potentially positive development,” that could represent a “significant breakthrough,” but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.

“Between the statements that we saw from the Russians — the statement today from the Syrians — this represents a potentially positive development,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, according to a transcript provided by the network. “We are going to run this to ground. [Secretary of State] John Kerry will be talking to his Russian counterpart. We’re going to make sure that we see how serious these proposals are.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria

0 Comments
Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, has said he opposes US military intervention in Syria, saying that he is “not in favour of going to war to make peace”.

“We made the mistake in Iraq. I hope we don’t make the mistake again in Syria,” he told Catholic News Service on Thursday after visiting some of the nearly half-million refugees who had fled to Jordan, Syria’s southern neighbour.

When asked what was worse, either allow Syria to use chemical weapons and do nothing or go in with limited military strikes, he quickly responded: “Neither is the proper answer.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryIraq WarPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 6, 2013 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the House voted today on a resolution to attack Syria, President Barack Obama would lose — and lose big.

That’s the private assessment of House Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides who are closely involved in the process.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria

0 Comments
Posted September 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Senate resolution would limit hostilities to 60 or 90 days, narrow the conflict to Syria's borders and prohibit U.S. troops on Syrian soil. McCain's amendments didn't change that scope, but made clear that the end goal should be "a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria."

The vote was 10-7. Five Republicans and two Democrats voted against it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Unfortunately, we seem to be entering another of those periods of elevated risk,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote last week. Researchers at RBC Capital Markets sounded even more bleak. “Just when you thought the U.S. economy was ready to break out of its lackluster 2 percent growth pace that has dominated the recovery,” they wrote, “reality hits.”

More economic turbulence would be particularly tough for poor and middle-class American workers, who are still struggling amid the historically weak growth following the recession. The typical worker’s income has fallen since the recession ended more than four years ago, and the economy, still far from full employment, is creating far more low-paying jobs than good-paying ones. Polls show that workers remain discouraged by the economic picture, with more than half believing the United States is still in recession.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

McCain and Graham have jointly expressed concerns that a military strike should be part of a broader strategy in Syria, not simply a random attack to punish the regime.

After meeting with Obama Monday, they both said they believed the White House is developing a strategy that would weaken the regime of President Bashar Assad and boost Syrian opposition forces — though they said Obama has more work to do to explain this plan.

"We still have significant concerns," McCain said, "but we believe there is in formulation a strategy to upgrade the capabilities of the Free Syrian Army and to degrade the capabilities of Bashar Assad. Before this meeting, we had not had that indication."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIranSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Update: A Washington Post article is there--read it all.

A NY Times article is now there.

A Statement says the House will consider the measure on Syrian military action the week of Sept. 9--check it out.

Final Update: the full text is now available--read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

19 Comments
Posted August 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many of the leaks about U.S. strike plans for Syria, a copious flow of surprisingly specific information on ship dispositions and possible targets, have been authorized as a way for President Obama to signal the limited scope of operations to friends and foes.

But a number of leaks have been decidedly unauthorized -- and, according to Obama administration sources, likely emanating from a Pentagon bureaucracy less enthusiastic about the prospect of an attack than, say, the State Department, National Security Council or Obama himself.

"Deeply unhelpful," was how one West Winger described the drip-drip of doubt.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMedia* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 31, 2013 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration’s plan to launch a military strike against Syria is being received with serious reservations by many in the U.S. military, which is coping with the scars of two lengthy wars and a rapidly contracting budget, according to current and former officers.

Having assumed for months that the United States was unlikely to intervene militarily in Syria, the Defense Department has been thrust onto a war footing that has made many in the armed services uneasy, according to interviews with more than a dozen military officers ranging from captains to a four-star general.

Former and current officers, many with the painful lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds, said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From Barrons [it may also be found here]:
When [President Barack] Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. He made a gesture to those in his administration who believe that the United States has a moral obligation to put an end to brutality. He also made a gesture to those who don't want to go to war again. It was one of those smart moves that can blow up in a president's face when it turns out his assumption was wrong. Whether al Assad did launch the attacks, whether the insurgents did, or whether someone faked them doesn't matter. Unless Obama can get overwhelming, indisputable proof that al Assad did not -- and that isn't going to happen -- Obama will either have to act on the red line principle or be shown to be one who bluffs. The incredible complexity of intervening in a civil war without becoming bogged down makes the process even more baffling.

Obama now faces the second time in his presidency when war was an option. The first was Libya. The tyrant is now dead, and what followed is not pretty. And Libya was easy compared to Syria. Now, the president must intervene to maintain his credibility. But there is no political support in the United States for intervention. He must take military action, but not one that would cause the United States to appear brutish. He must depose al Assad, but not replace him with his opponents. He never thought al Assad would be so reckless. Despite whether al Assad actually was, the consensus is that he was. That's the hand the president has to play, so it's hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, which it usually does.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama is considering military action against Syria that is intended to “deter and degrade” President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s ability to launch chemical weapons, but is not aimed at ousting Mr. Assad from power or forcing him to the negotiating table, administration officials said Tuesday.

A wide range of officials characterized the action under consideration as “limited,” perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in that country’s civil war, according to senior administration officials.

The timing of such an attack, which would probably last no more than two days and involve sea-launched cruise missiles — or, possibly, long-range bombers — striking military targets not directly related to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, would be dependent on three factors: completion of an intelligence report assessing Syrian government culpability in last week’s alleged chemical attack; ongoing consultation with allies and Congress; and determination of a justification under international law.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted August 27, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That sets up one of the recurring problems in health-care policy, which is that the more you do to control costs, the more people will hate you. Insurers found this out in the 1990s, when HMOs managed to save a lot of money without doing any measurable harm to care, but the American people loathed them for it. Various provisions in the Affordable Care Act — or any serious cost-control effort — will end up proving it again.

This will present a useful test for seeing who’s serious about controlling health-care costs. Conservative economists, for instance, almost universally hate the fact that employer-provided health benefits aren’t taxed, and that public-sector workers have bargained so aggressively for generous benefits. John McCain’s 2008 health plan relied on ending the employer deduction entirely and converting it to a capped deduction for individuals — which is a much more violent version of this kind of change.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[ Lindsey] Graham told reporters today that President Obama asked the two senators to travel to the region to assess the situation and to urge the Egyptian military to proceed with new elections.

“The president asked Sen. McCain and myself to go to Egypt next week, so we’re trying to find a way to get there,” Graham said, according to The Associated Press. “So we can go over and reinforce in a bipartisan fashion the message that we have to move to civilian control, that the military is going to have to, you know, allow the country to have new elections and move toward an inclusive, democratic approach.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Southern Baptist from Spartanburg with no political experience walked the halls of Capitol Hill on Wednesday with his wife, lobbying Congress to support immigration reform as a moral issue.

Jim Goodroe, director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network, has ministered to the immigrant community of Spartanburg for the last 12 years. His wife, Nancy, teaches young children who don’t speak English as a first language.

The Goodroes are well-versed on visas and green cards and the struggles involved in migrating to a foreign country. But the political arena is a new world to them.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsImmigrationPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 15, 2013 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Amid speculation that the Federal Reserve soon might start scaling back its stimulus efforts, the International Monetary Fund cautioned that a pullback before next year could hurt economies worldwide.

Highlighting its concern Friday, the IMF lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth next year to 2.7% from an earlier projection of 3%.

The IMF also criticized U.S. fiscal policy, calling for the repeal of the automatic federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, and urging lawmakers to act promptly to raise the nation's debt limit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009The U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Can we get real? For starters, $642 billion is serious money, and despite the modest improvements of the latest CBO report, the basic trends in federal finances remain the same. From 2014 to 2023, the government will spend $6 trillion more than it collects in taxes. The budget never comes close to balancing. Expanding spending on the elderly and health care continues to strangle the rest of government. As a share of the economy (gross domestic product), military and domestic discretionary programs (examples: drug approval, environmental regulation, Head Start, federal courts) drop about 40 percent from 2010 to 2023.

Nothing of consequence has changed. A few numbers have shifted slightly. That’s all. They moved in a favorable direction. Next time, they might go the other way. What’s also constant is the unwillingness of leaders of both parties, beginning with the president, to discuss budget choices candidly. The budget passed by the Democratic Senate barely touches entitlements for the elderly, which constitute the largest chunk of federal spending. The budget passed by the Republican House avoids a large tax increase only by making draconian and unrealistic spending cuts that would never pass Congress or be signed by the president.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At this time of year, when most Americans have just filed their returns, exasperation with the income tax system reaches a peak. Hardly anyone denies it's a complex mess. In 2010, calculating their taxes cost Americans $168 billion, estimates the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the Internal Revenue Service. That's about 15 percent of taxes collected — a heavy overhead. Almost 60 percent of taxpayers pay accountants or other tax preparers. Public esteem for the tax system is low; in a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent judged it unfair. Disaffection was fairly even politically: 47 percent among Republicans, 58 percent among Democrats and 56 percent among independents.

So “tax reform” ought to be a cinch, right? Well, no.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted April 21, 2013 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Monday, an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three innocent people at the Boston Marathon.

But in the days since, the world has witnessed one sure and steadfast truth: Americans refuse to be terrorized.

Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week. That’s what will remain. Stories of heroism and kindness; resolve and resilience; generosity and love....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism

0 Comments
Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

6 Comments
Posted April 3, 2013 at 6:49 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The CBO forecast finds a persistent mismatch between tax revenue and spending over the coming decade. As the economy improves, tax revenue should rise to 19 percent of GDP for the period from 2015 through 2023, up from 15.8 percent in 2012, the report said. But federal spending, after an early-decade dip, will start rising persistently faster than revenues.

"After 2017, if current laws remain in place, outlays will start growing again as a percentage of GDP," the CBO said. "The aging of the population, increasing health care costs, and a significant expansion of eligibility for federal subsidies for health insurance will substantially boost spending for Social Security and for major health care programs relative to the size of the economy."

The CBO's current-law "baseline" calls for spending to reach about 23 percent of GDP in 2023 and, more worrisome, to be "on an upward trajectory."

Read it all.

Update: An IBD article is also available on this, entitled "CBO Report Shows We're Still Headed Toward A Fiscal Cliff" and it may be found there.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the Elderly* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted February 6, 2013 at 7:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The $1.2tn in automatic spending cuts that Barack Obama once promised to avert are looking increasingly likely to occur because of entrenched politics in Washington, threatening a shock to confidence in the US economy.

Economists have long assumed that the so-called sequester – a budgetary mechanism passed in 2011 that takes effect on March 1 and slashes the Pentagon’s budget by $600bn over 10 years while cutting discretionary spending for government programmes by another $600bn – would be replaced or reversed by Congress.

Many saw a recent move by Republicans on Capitol Hill to extend the US borrowing authority as a sign of greater co-operation with the White House. But conservative lawmakers have recently made it clear that they were simply gearing up for another fight, and are prepared to take a hard line on the $1.2tn in cuts even amid objections from military hawks.

Read it all (may require subscription).


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

4 Comments
Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We agree with Obama that it will take a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to put the government's fiscal house in order. Republicans swallowed hard and accepted an increase in tax rates for the highest incomes to start the year. It's the Democrats' turn to recognize that federal benefit programs, and particularly healthcare entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, are on an unsustainable path despite the savings from the 2010 healthcare law.

Obama should lead a Democratic push for reforms that preserve these programs for those who need them, while also reducing the deficit and stopping the federal debt from growing faster than the economy. He's in the best position to lead on this issue, able to provide political cover for Democrats concerned that their constituents won't put up with changes to the status quo, while showing Republicans that there are ways to save money without abandoning the government's commitment to the elderly and poor. To create an opening for the rest of his agenda, he needs to step up to that role.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 24, 2013 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It's interesting that our culture is rarely scandalized by this preaching of the Cross. That's probably because it is a rare theme of Christian preaching these days. Instead we have been smitten with practical preaching that helps people become successful in life and business, and with ethical preaching that tells people how to live better. This is done for the noblest of reasons—to show the gospel relevant to people's daily needs, but one can see where this has gotten us. When the Cross is preached, it is often preached in a way that falls on deaf ears. It's seen as a theme for theologians to wax eloquent about with strange words like propitiation and justification, or something comforting to guilt-ridden religious types—but meaningless to regular human beings.

Need-driven preaching—even of the highest order, that is, our search for significance—communicates that Jesus is just another way to solve our problems. It is no wonder that the culture looks at us, pats us on the head, and says, "But we've found other, equally valid ways to solve our problems, thank you." We tend to think that postmoderns have brought relativism down upon us, but it seems, we Christians have been the culprits the more we make our message about meeting people's needs.

The most needful and difficult task of the church today is to again preach the message of the Cross, and to do so in a way that alarms, surprises, scandalizes, challenges, invigorates, and inspires a 21st century world. What that would look like exactly is hard to say; our theologians and pastors need to help us here. In the most general terms, it has to be about Christ first and last. It has to be about the Christ who came into the world not to improve generally good people, but to resurrect the dead, not to bolster our self-esteem but to forgive us, not to make people successful but to make them loving, not to win the culture but to establish a kingdom without end.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSexuality* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted January 23, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

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Posted January 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

REV. LUIS CORTES, Esperanza: We have a coalition of people of faith who are actually trying to get both the Republicans and the Democrats to have a conversation on immigration. The president did promise that he wanted to address it. We’re hoping that Congress can work together and this year we can come to an agreement on a more comprehensive immigration reform package.

ARCHBISHOP GEORGE CAREY, Former Archbishop of Canterbury: If we can solve the problem of Israel and make sure that Israel has a proper, proper nation with safe borders and so on and yet at the same time allow the Palestinians to have their own state. If we can solve that one, then many of the world’s problems in terms of interfaith dialogue will be resolved.

Sayyid Syeed, Islamic Society of North AmericaSAYYID SYEED, Islamic Society of North America: It’s very critical for America to have good reputation, to have good liaison, with the Muslim world.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A political class that botched the fiscal cliff so badly are not going to be capable of a gigantic deal on complex issues. It’s like going into a day care center and asking a bunch of infants to perform “Swan Lake.”
--David Brooks in a piece on today's NY Times Op-ed page entitled "The Next Four Years"

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.

By 2025, entitlement spending and debt payments are projected to suck up all federal revenue. Obligations to the elderly are already squeezing programs for the young and the needy. Those obligations will lead to gigantic living standard declines for future generations. According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s long-term obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35 percent increase in all taxes and a 35 percent cut in all benefits....

[The final 'solution didn't] involve a single hard decision. It did little to control spending. It abandoned all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around.

Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.

Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the House, the majority Republican party says it won't raise the debt limit without spending cuts of equivalent amounts. Mr. Obama has said he won't negotiate over the matter, saying it is the responsibility of Congress to enable the government to pay bills it has incurred.

The government spends 40% more than it takes in and borrows money to cover the difference. Without an increase in the debt ceiling, the Treasury won't be able to borrow the additional money needed to pay all its bills.

Failure to make payment on even some of its obligations could wreak havoc in the economy and financial markets and possibly trigger another financial crisis and recession, analysts have warned.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Congressional Budget Office projects that over the next decade Social Security's annual cash deficit will rise by nearly $100 billion, reaching $155 billion a year. The cost of servicing the extra public debt tied to cashing in $1 trillion worth of Social Security's intragovernmental IOUs over the 10 years would add $40 billion to the deficit in 2022 alone, an IBD analysis finds.

Overall, Social Security would account for nearly $200 billion in annual deficits or nearly 20% of the $1 trillion-plus deficit that would occur under current policies, including fiscal-cliff tax hikes.

Then, over the following decade, the retirement program's impact on deficits would really balloon.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are two major reasons for Medicare’s rising costs. The first is the program’s design, often tweaked but left fundamentally intact since its creation in 1965, which basically pays doctors and hospitals fixed fees for whatever they do. At a time of rapid (and often beneficial) medical innovation, the dominant incentive has been to provide more, and more expensive, care. Hence the House Ways and Means Committee’s 1965 estimate that Medicare hospital insurance would cost $9 billion by 1990 fell short by $58 billion. The second reason costs keep going up, of course, is the rising number of elderly eligible for Medicare, which is inevitable; the 50 million beneficiaries today will be 78 million in 2030.

The ultimate solution is structural: to limit growth in expenditures per beneficiary. Easier said than done. Liberals would empower the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB) to stop payment for treatments it deems not cost-effective. The idea hasn’t gotten very far, partly because Republicans denounce it as “rationing.” Conservatives favor “premium support,” which would subsidize seniors to shop among competing insurance plans, but Democrats, the president included, have tarred that idea as a skimpy “voucher.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicarePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 7, 2013 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While many in Washington are breathing a sigh of relief and some are trying to spin the outcome as a win for the president, those who characterize this bill as a genuine victory for anyone at all have clearly lost perspective. The deal brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does make good on President Obama's promise to bring a little more equity to the tax code by raising rates on wealthier Americans, and it temporarily averts the most draconian "sequestration" cuts. But the list of what it does not do, and what it does wrong, is long.

By midday Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office had concluded that the Biden-McConnell package would add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next 10 years. This was largely because it actually extends and makes permanent more than 80% of the Bush tax cuts. So much for the idea that this whole struggle was supposed to help America get its financial house in order.

Just as bad, or perhaps worse in terms of the day-to-day lives of average people, the bill only postpones the forced cuts of sequestration by two months, to precisely the moment the country will be engaged in another ruinous debate about lifting our national debt ceiling to ensure the country can pay its bills. It thus creates a new, even more dangerous fiscal cliff....

Read it all.

Update: George Will has also written on this I see--Perils Of The Entitlement State And Our Decadent Democracy.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:48 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress' hectic resolution of the "fiscal cliff" crisis is the latest in a long series of decisions by lawmakers and the White House to do less than promised — and to ask Americans for little sacrifice — in confronting the nation's burgeoning debt.

The deal will generate $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years, less than half the amount President Barack Obama first called for. It will raise income tax rates only on the very rich, despite Obama's campaign for broader increases.

It puts off the toughest decisions about spending cuts for military and domestic programs, including Medicare and Social Security. And it does nothing to mitigate the looming partisan showdown on the debt ceiling, which must rise soon to avoid default on U.S. loans.

In short, the deal reached between Obama and congressional Republicans continues to let Americans enjoy relatively high levels of government service at low levels of taxation. The only way that's possible, of course, is through heavy borrowing, which future generations will inherit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate [and House]... would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of [December 31]

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

2 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households.

The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature; the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

Read it all.

Update: Here are the new numbers for 2013 in Congress--Democrats control of the Senate by 55 to 45 (change of 2) and Republicans control of the House of Representatives by 234-201 (change of 8)

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A US Senate-backed deal [by a vote of 89-8] to stave off a "fiscal cliff" of drastic taxation and spending measures has passed to the House of Representatives.

President Barack Obama has urged the House to pass the bill "without delay".

However, several representatives have spoken out against it, with one calling it "bad for America".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Senate leaders are racing against the clock to reach a "fiscal cliff" deal the House and Senate can approve on New Year's Eve.

Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.

Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.
Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax.

Read it all.

Update: a BBC article is there.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution.

Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax.

To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted December 30, 2012 at 5:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whether or not there is a deal, the weeks since the election have produced a stark display of political gridlock. "The government is not working," said Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who was a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans for many years. "There is no doubt that the policy-making apparatus in this town has collapsed."

Following the tea-party wave in the 2010 election, the 112th Congress looks set to be the least productive in recent history. By the end of November, the House had passed 146 bills over the previous two years, by far the smallest number for any Congress since 1948. The Senate passed fewer bills in 2012 than in any year since at least 1992.

Rather than smoothing over differences, the November election appears to have hardened them. "We came out of the election with both sides thinking they won and had an equal mandate," said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University who is now interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a book on bipartisanship. "One problem is we don't have a common narrative to guide us."

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.


Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A long line of America's top chief executives have rotated through Washington in recent weeks, loudly urging lawmakers and the White House to reach a broad deal to fix the budget. They once sounded optimistic. Now many of them aren't talking, and if they are, they're gloomy.

Mark Bertolini, chief executive of health-insurance company Aetna Inc., called the state of play "pitiful and embarrassing," saying the chances are growing that a deal might not be reached by the end of the year to avert $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts.

"Set aside my interest as the CEO of a participant in the economy here—as an American, I'm embarrassed if that's where we end up," Mr. Bertolini said in an interview. "It feels like it's starting to fall apart."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaState Government

0 Comments
Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The shape of a deal to avert the US fiscal cliff is at last emerging, with at least $1tn in new taxes, up to $1tn in fresh spending cuts and an increase in America’s debt ceiling, as negotiators scramble to reach an agreement before the end-of-the-year deadline.

Barack Obama, US president, and John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, held their third face-to-face meeting in eight days at the White House amid signs of growing momentum in the talks. If they strike a deal in the coming days, and are able to pass it through Congress, it would remove a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the global economy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Budget negotiations between the White House and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have progressed steadily in recent days, people close to the process said, breathing life into talks that appeared to have stalled.

Both sides still face sizable differences before any agreement might be reached by the end of the year, and talks could well falter again over such controversial issues as taxes and Medicare before any deal is ultimately reached.

The people familiar with the matter say talks have taken a marked shift in recent days as staff and leaders have consulted, becoming more "serious." Both sides have agreed to keep details private, according to the people, who declined to detail where new ground was being broken.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

0 Comments
Posted December 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From there:
[Here is a list of]...the most expensive tax breaks in the current tax code, based on what those breaks would cost the U.S. Treasury in lost revenue from 2013 to 2017:

1) Exclusion of employer contributions for medical insurance premiums & medical: $1 trillion

2) Mortgage interest deduction: $606 billion

3) Deduction for 401(k) plans: $429 billion

4) Accelerated depreciation of machinery & equipment: $375 billion

5) Exclusion of net imputed rental income: $337 billion

6) Capital gains: $321 billion

7) Charitable contributions: $293 billion


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted December 6, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....seasoned Washington hands say that once this rather gloomy back and forth has played out - and it might take another week or more - the work towards reaching a solution that both sides can sell to their parties and their lawmakers will begin in earnest.

A deal by Christmas, a week before the fiscal cliff deadline, remains uncertain but not out of the question. The so-called fiscal cliff is a combination of U.S. government spending cuts and tax increases due to be implemented under existing law in early 2013 that may cut the federal budget deficit but also tip the economy back into recession.

The pattern of little happening until very close to a holiday is well-established on Capitol Hill. The past three pre-Christmas seasons brought important eleventh-hour developments on health care in 2009, tax cut extensions in 2010 and the payroll tax holiday in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....President Obama's call for a return to Clinton-era tax rates is misleading: If the Bush upper-income tax cuts go away, tax rates will exceed those in place at the end of the 1990s.

The top effective federal marginal tax rate on work income would rise to roughly 44.6% from 37.9% in 2012.

That's higher than under President Clinton because of a 0.9-percentage-point Medicare payroll tax hike for upper-income households, which passed with Obama-Care and takes effect in January.

Tax rates on long-term capital gains also will be higher than when Clinton left office if Bush tax cuts expire as ObamaCare's new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment gains takes effect. Up to now, only wage and salary income has been subject to Medicare taxes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At first blush, it seems to make policy sense, too. The rich fabric of America’s civic life, from Boy Scouts to community orchestras to soup kitchens, is the envy of the world. Its diversity reflects in part how much it depends on private givers with diverse interests and motives, and not just on the government. Their giving is encouraged by the charitable deduction, enacted in 1917, just four years after the income tax itself. The deduction lets people feel they are beating the system even as they practice virtue.

But there’s a question of fairness that complicates the issue. Overwhelmingly, the deduction benefits the wealthy — and the rest of the country has to make up the gap.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit Organizations* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

18 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama’s re-election and Democratic gains in Congress were supposed to make it easier for the party to strike a deal with Republicans to resolve the year-end fiscal crisis by providing new leverage. But they could also make it harder as empowered Democrats, including some elected on liberal platforms, resist significant changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

As Congress returned Monday, the debate over those programs, which many Democrats see as the core of the party’s identity, was shaping up as the Democratic version of the higher-profile struggle among Republicans over taxes.

In failed deficit reduction talks last year, Mr. Obama signaled a willingness to consider substantial changes in the social safety net, including a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and limits in the growth rate of future Social Security benefits. An urgent question hanging over the new round of deficit talks is which of those changes Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats would accept today....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the first time in decades, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in Washington to raise taxes. But negotiators working to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” remain far apart on crucial details, including how taxes should go up and who should pay more.

Neither side gave ground in an opening round of staff-level talks last week at the Capitol. As President Obama and congressional leaders prepare for a second face-to-face meeting as soon as this week, the divide over taxes presents the biggest obstacle to replacing the heap of abrupt tax hikes and spending cuts, set to hit in January, with a less-traumatic debt-reduction plan.

People in both parties are exploring ideas for bridging the gap. Without a deal on taxes, there is not much hope for agreement on a broader strategy for restraining the national debt that also tackles the skyrocketing cost of federal retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

3 Comments
Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congressional negotiators, trying to avert a fiscal crisis in January, are examining ideas that would allow effective tax rates to rise for the wealthy without technically raising the top tax rate of 35 percent. They hope the proposals will advance negotiations by allowing both parties to claim they stood their ground.

One possible change would tax the entire salary earned by those making more than a certain level — $400,000 or so — at the top rate of 35 percent rather than allowing them to pay lower rates before they reach the target, as is the standard formula. That plan would allow Republicans to say they did not back down in their opposition to raising marginal tax rates and Democrats to say they prevailed by increasing effective tax rates on the rich. At the same time, it would provide an initial effort to reduce the deficit, which the negotiators call a down payment, as Congressional tax-writing committees hash out a broad overhaul of the tax code.

That idea could be combined with the reinstatement of tax code provisions that once prevented the rich from taking personal exemptions or itemizing deductions. Those rules were eliminated by the tax cut of 2001. Reinstating them would tack an additional one to two percentage points onto the effective tax rates of high-income households without raising the 35 percent rate, but which households would be affected has not been decided. In all, tax experts say, families in the top tax bracket would find their effective tax rate jump to 41 percent, even though the top statutory rate would remain 35 percent.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

5 Comments
Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:27 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most of the increases would result from the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, which would cause marginal rates to rise. Simultaneously, several temporary tax breaks pushed by President Barack Obamaafter the financial crisis also would end.

And most households—121 million in all—would be hit by an increase in the payroll tax that employees pay to 6.2% from 4.2%.

Also expiring at year-end is a provision to reduce the so-called marriage penalty, a set of tax provisions that require many couples to pay higher taxes when they file jointly. And millions more families' earnings this year would be subject to the alternative minimum tax. The AMT was originally intended to prevent the very wealthy from avoiding taxes but would apply to middle-class households if policy makers don't renew a provision that expired last year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

0 Comments
Posted November 21, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the biggest loopholes in the U.S. Tax Code — generally referred to as tax expenditures — aren’t just the tricks of the trade for millionaires with offshore bank accounts. For the vast majority of Americans, they’re just how things work: You don’t pay taxes on your health insurance or Medicare benefits; you contribute tax-free to your 401(k); and your mortgage interest pushes down your tax bill each year.

And even if you dump the biggest of the set, these tax perks don’t even come close to closing the deficit. At best, the top 10 would pull in an extra $834 billion a year, according to Joint Committee on Taxation figures. Considering the hole lawmakers are trying to fill is several trillion dollars large, it’s clear they wouldn’t even come close.

Here are the 10 biggest tax loopholes — and the reasons why most of them will survive the fiscal cliff....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

1 Comments
Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. companies are scaling back investment plans at the fastest pace since the recession, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery.

Half of the nation's 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal of securities filings and conference calls.

Nationwide, business investment in equipment and software—a measure of economic vitality in the corporate sector—stalled in the third quarter for the first time since early 2009. Corporate investment in new buildings has declined.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

0 Comments
Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should lawmakers not reach agreement prior to the end of the year, the US budget deficit for 2013 would be cut almost in half, to $560 billion.

Which doesn't sound like a bad thing. After all, the US is staggering under a monumental pile of debt and could potentially begin to face the kinds of difficulties that have plunged several euro-zone countries into crisis. It is a viewpoint shared by the ratings agencies -- a year ago, Standard & Poor's withdrew America's top rating, justifying the measure by pointing to the unending battle over the debt ceiling. The agency noted that "the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

From afar, it is difficult to argue; the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the face of a horrendously imbalanced budget looks catastrophically absurd. As their country heads toward the edge of the abyss, lawmakers preferred to debate whether or not French fries and pizza should be considered vegetables.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

15 Comments
Posted November 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaUS Presidential Election 2012

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Posted November 7, 2012 at 5:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While fewer Muslims are supporting Obama this year, Muslim support for Mitt Romney -- at just 7 percent, according to the CAIR poll -- is more than triple the 2.2 percent of Muslims who voted for GOP nominee John McCain in 2008.

"Muslims need tough love, not soft coddling to get over their illusions of Islamist fantasies," said Ahmed Vanya, an engineer in San Jose, Calif.

Vanya fears that many Muslims won't give Romney a fair chance.

"Many Muslims are not going to be happy with the way Romney would handle the civil rights issues," Vanya said. "Even if he follows exactly the same policies as Obama, he would be perceived as worse for the Muslims."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaUS Presidential Election 2012* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted November 2, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many people in conservative-church pews and pulpits cannot grasp the fact that Obama is a liberal Christian. Yes, he may be so doctrinally liberal that, when it comes to eternal questions, he believes that there are no ultimate differences between Christians, Jews, Muslims and everybody else — but he is certainly not alone in believing that. The leaders of many denominations believe that. Legions of seminary professors agree with him.

In oh so many ways, Obama is a perfectly normal liberal Protestant Christian.

However, as recent Pew Forum research made clear, the world of liberal Protestantism is no longer at the heart of American life. The old mainline is now on the sideline, to the left of the mainstream. That does not mean that oldline churches are not important or worthy of balanced, nuanced coverage.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaUS Presidential Election 2012

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Posted November 2, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most economists surveyed by USA TODAY have little faith a divided Congress will adequately address looming tax increases and spending cuts, significantly hampering economic growth well into 2013.

The standoff in Washington, along with the global economic slowdown, threatens a U.S. economy that otherwise would be gaining steam on a strengthening U.S. housing market and improving private-sector balance sheets, economists say. The survey of 50 leading economists was conducted Aug. 3-8.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed don't think Congress will be able to lessen the impact of $560 billion in tax increases and spending cuts, slated to take effect at year's end, in a way that avoids significant damage to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office says the so-called fiscal cliff would slice up to 4 percentage points off growth next year -- causing the economy to contract in the first half -- if all the deficit-slicing measures occur at once.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

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Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

America needs a serious debate both about the size and scope of government, and how to pay for it. The winner of the November election will immediately be faced with the problem of the “fiscal cliff”—a preset $400 billion tax increase, with the expiry of various tax cuts, and a $100-billion-a-year cut in spending—which could push the economy back into recession. Looming over that is the gaping deficit. And over that, America’s schizophrenia: it taxes itself like a small-government country, but spends like a big-government one.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 28, 2012 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Supreme Court is set this week to decide the politically charged constitutional clashes between President Obama and Republicans over his healthcare law and his immigration enforcement policy.

By most accounts, the justices must make a stark, clear choice either to endorse Obama's policies — including the mandate for all to have health insurance — or to strike them down as flatly unconstitutional.

But the justices could rule in unexpected ways that would allow both sides to claim a victory.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsImmigrationPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

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Posted June 25, 2012 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As he left the meeting, [Richard] Holbrooke pulled out his trump card — a call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was traveling in Saudi Arabia. The following week, Clinton went to see Obama armed with a list of Holbrooke’s accomplishments. “Mr. President,” she said, “you can fire Richard Holbrooke — over the objection of your secretary of state.” But Jim Jones, Clinton said, could not.

Obama backed down, but Jones didn’t, nor did others at the White House. Instead of capitalizing on Holbrooke’s experience and supporting his push for reconciliation with the Taliban, White House officials dwelled on his shortcomings — his disorganization, his manic intensity, his thirst for the spotlight, his dislike of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his tendency to badger fellow senior officials. At every turn, they sought to marginalize him and diminish his influence.

The infighting exacted a staggering cost: The Obama White House failed to aggressively explore negotiations to end the war when it had the most boots on the battlefield.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted June 25, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage appears to have made Americans on both sides of the issue even more entrenched in their positions, firing up his young, liberal backers and intensifying opposition from Republicans and conservatives, according to a new poll.

Overall, his announcement last month that he supported gay marriage did little to shift the nation’s views on the subject, with the country remaining evenly divided on it, the Associated Press-GfK survey found. And people still seem to favor him over Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney when it comes to handling social issues.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilySexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama


Posted June 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an unexpected blow to the Obama administration and a major boon for America's Catholic bishops, the influential Catholic Health Association on Friday (June 15) rejected White House proposals aimed at easing faith-based objections to the contraception mandate.

“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries,” Sister Carol Keehan and leaders of the CHA said in a five-page response to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Maybe the economy is a political black hole, sucking every other issue into an impossibly dense void.

Maybe Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are just private, cautious men by nature.

For whatever reason, neither President Obama nor his Republican challenger is talking much about religion these days — neither about his own faith nor that of his opponent, or the social issues that motivate religious voters.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

2 Comments
Posted June 7, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Timothy Clarke, head of the First Church of God, a large African-American church with a television ministry in Columbus, Ohio, was perhaps most typical. He felt compelled to address the president’s comments at a Wednesday evening service and again Sunday morning. He was responding to an outpouring of calls, emails and text messages from members of his congregation after the president’s remarks.

What did he hear from churchgoers? “No church or group is monolithic. Some were powerfully agitated and disappointed. Others were curious — why now? to what end? Others were hurt. And others, to be honest, told me it’s not an issue and they don’t have a problem with it.”

What did the bishop tell his congregation? He opposes gay marriage. It is not just a social issue, he said, but a religious one for those who follow the Bible. “The spiritual issue is ground in the word of God.”

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

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Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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