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Archive for January 2nd, 2013

NC U.S. House members explain their ‘fiscal cliff’ votes

I’m always interested in how members of Congress use their official websites. Often it’s what’s NOT there that is as revealing as what is. I visited each of our 13 members’ websites to see what they had to say about their votes last night on the “fiscal cliff” legislation.

District 1, G.K. Butterfield (D): No press release on the fiscal cliff issue. You can tell he’s in a safe district.

District 2, Renee Ellmers (R): “Last night, I voted against the Senate’s compromise bill. This was supposed to be a deficit reduction bill, not a deficit increase that adds trillions to our deficit while increasing taxes. I could not support a measure that adds trillions to our deficits while increasing taxes by $41 for every $1 in spending cuts. Additionally, this deal continues to give tax advantages to big businesses while small businesses – the real lifeblood of our economy – are left to shoulder the burden and pay the bills.”

District 3, Walter Jones (R): “I’m tired of seeing Congress and the White House rob our children and grandchildren,” said Congressman Jones. “America is nearly broke financially because its political leadership keeps passing bills like this that simply kick the can down the road. $40 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts? Adding $4 trillion to the debt? Are you kidding?”

District 4, David Price (D): “Legislation cutting taxes for middle class Americans and asking the wealthiest to contribute more to deficit reduction has been stalled for far too long by Congressional Republicans intent on protecting tax breaks for millionaires. Today’s last-minute vote marks a victory for the majority of Americans, who voted for a balanced approach to deficit reduction in November. Reducing our deficit solely by cutting the programs that invest in our people or provide dignity in old age for our seniors has always been out of step with our priorities and values. I am hopeful that today’s vote means Republicans are newly committed to shared sacrifice in any broader, balanced deficit reduction agreement.”

District 5, Virginia Foxx (R): “Since May House Republicans have acted in good faith to generate ideas to avert the fiscal cliff. Our balanced proposals have been designed to protect American jobs and begin the hard work of overcoming America’s debt crisis. Thus, I could not in good conscience vote for a Senate ‘deal’ that delays savings while expanding spending subsidies, ignoring the real drivers of debt, and using harmful new taxes as justification for government growth.”

District 6, Howard Coble (R): “While far from a perfect piece of legislation, I thought it was critical to make permanent tax relief for 99 percent of Americans. This bill will guarantee that the estate tax, one of the most onerous in the tax code, will remain at the $5 million exemption level. And while the rate will rise from 35% to 40% over $5 million, it would have gone to 55% for all estates over $1 million if we had done nothing.”

District 7, Mike McIntyre (D): “It is absolutely critical that a sensible resolution of the ‘fiscal cliff’ be reached with bi-partisan support, but the Senate’s proposal is not the way to resolve this important issue for the following reasons: 1) It will add almost $4 trillion to the nation’s debt; 2) It delays spending cuts; and 3) It does not provide for comprehensive tax reform that can help our small businesses create jobs. The financial markets, small business and the American people are looking for stability and accountability, not a temporary fix. A comprehensive solution is needed that includes getting our national debt under control and reining in government spending.”

District 8, Larry Kissell (D): No statement appears on his website. You can tell he’s a lame duck.

District 9, Sue Myrick (R): No statement appears on her website. See lame duck comment above.

District 10, Patrick McHenry (R): No statement appears on his website. Safe district comment above applies.

District 11, Heath Shuler (D): No statement appears on his website. Lame duck comment above applies.

District 12, Mel Watt (D): No statement appears on his website. Safe district comment above applies.

District 13, Brad Miller (D): Though a lame duck, Miller offered a statement regarding his vote: “Congress has assured that there will be more embarrassing and damaging melodrama over the debt ceiling and spending in just a couple of months. I have held my nose and voted ‘yes’ many times, but this bill makes mindless cuts to programs important to the middle class inevitable.”

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Duke lacrosse: The program that almost wasn’t

Picture 3In the spring of 2006 the Duke lacrosse program was front-page and major-network news almost daily, for reasons we all remember. After the notorious party on N. Buchanan Blvd., the 2006 season was suspended. There was a serious question whether the entire program would be eliminated, and one of college lacrosse’s powerhouses would disappear.

Here’s an interesting interview with Kevin Cassese, a Duke lacrosse alum and an then-assistant coach in 2006, and Ed Douglas, a midfielder on the 2006 team, who developed a report on the team that spring for Duke President Richard Broadhead.

Here’s Cassese talking about his meeting with Broadhead after they submitted their report. It was a meeting upon which the fate of Duke lacrosse depended:

I remember being really nervous and anxious walking in. You have to remember, at the time I was a 25-year old kid who had been coaching for literally a couple years — Stony Brook for one and Duke for half. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just felt I had to get in front of this guy. I felt good about the conversation. I remember he was curious, he didn’t know very much about the sport. He didn’t know enough about the program or what to expect. I was able to put his mind at ease a little bit that lacrosse wasn’t a bunch of barbarians running around campus. I think he and others on campus were being spoon fed that. He asked a lot of questions, he wanted to get to know me, which I thought was good because he wanted to get to know what had sculpted me, which was my Duke lacrosse experience.

Obviously, Broadhead reacted favorably to the Cassese-Douglas report, because Duke lacrosse exists as we speak. I criticized Broadhead and other Duke officials’ actions at the time for seeming to leap to conclusions about guilt. So, in fairness, I have to give Broadhead belated kudos for being willing to read the report, to listen to Cassese, and to learn about lacrosse, and, specifically, the Duke lacrosse program, beyond the stereotypes being put out in the media.

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Durham’s single-parent problem

The Washington Times has plotted Census tracts showing where the highest percentage of single-parent families live, as well as those where the most two-parent families reside. Durham fares depressingly poorly in both (See map below).

Picture 1

Red and orange depict areas with the highest proportion of single-parent families. Green denotes Census tracts with 9 of 10 families having both parents living in the home. Note that there are NO Census tracts in Durham north of I-40 that are green. None.

Here’s a wider view of the Triangle area:

Picture 2

Calling this a “single-parent family” problem is just a euphemism. It’s actually an illegitimacy problem that has gotten worse in this country for about 40 years, especially in black communities, mainly due to a devaluation of the institution of marriage and wrong-headed government welfare policies that place disincentives on families staying together.

All the resultant bad consequences to society don’t need to be rehashed here. Just suffice it to say that almost every social problem we have can be brought back to illegitimacy or the abandonment of families by irresponsible fathers.

If the world were not turned upside down, the NAACP and every other liberal group in the country would be placing this issue front and center on the American agenda. It’s been documented that one of the best ways to stay out of poverty is to wait until you’re 21 to get married, and to not have any children until you are married. Do otherwise and you have generational poverty, where people live in public housing for decades instead of only until they get on their feet.

One look at the skyrocketing welfare costs that face the nation, states, counties and cities will show that they coincide with the rise in illegitimacy and the efforts from the left to devalue marriage. If we really care about people, we’ll try to change this situation, not just assume it’s the best we can do.

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Rep. Brad Miller: Obama Administration Didn’t Understand Influence Of Tea Party On Congress

Outgoing Democratic Rep. Brad Miller of the 13th district is commenting to slate.com about his time in Congress, the influence of Tea Party Republicans, and the conservative Blue Dogs in his own party.

When did I know that this current Congress would be rough? Election Night 2010. I thought in late November and December, in the lame duck after the 2010 election, I thought the Obama administration was wildly unrealistic about how it could get along with the new Congress. They’d been inside the Beltway bubble and had no idea how extreme the Tea Party folks were, and that part of the Tea Party ethic was: Never compromise. They felt betrayed by people like Bob Bennett, Dick Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, and even Orrin Hatch—though he’s changed that tendency—who compromise.

These days it is “extreme” to live within one’s means and to be concerned about the crushing debt being dumped on the next several generations.

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Hollywood’s Liberal Elites: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Ah, yes. It’s nice to be a wealthy liberal elitist. Courtesy of Breitbart comes the latest Hollywood double standard.

The Senate passed legislation meant to end the “fiscal cliff” crisis in the wee hours of the morning. And it seems Hollywood’s rigorous backing of President Barack Obama and his Democrat peers in the waning months of 2012 paid off.

Section 317 of the freshly approved legislation includes an extension for “special expensing rules for certain film and television productions.” Congress first enacted production tax incentives favorable to the domestic entertainment industry in 2004, and extended them in 2008, but the deal was meant to expire in 2011. 

The fiscal cliff deal extends the tax incentives through 2013–even as payroll taxes rise on ordinary Americans.

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Details of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal legislation

Picture 3In case you’re wondering what that late-night bit of legislation, designed to keep us from hurtling off the “fiscal cliff,” will do, there’s a good Cliff’s Notes version here.

Here are some highlights:

• Retains the 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, and 28 percent income tax brackets from the Bush tax cuts permanently

• Retains the 33 percent and 35 percent income tax brackets from the Bush tax cuts for taxable income under $400,000 (single), $425,000 (head of household), and $450,000 (joint filers). Imposes 39.6 percent tax rate on income above this level.

• Phases out personal exemptions (PEP) for adjusted gross income over $250,000 (single), $275,000 (head of household) and $300,000 (joint filers)

• Limits itemized deductions (Pease) for adjusted gross income over $250,000 (single), $275,000 (head of household) and $300,000 (joint filers)

• Capital gains tax and dividends tax will be 20 percent for taxpayers with income over $400,000 (single) and $450,000 (joint filers). This does not include the new 3.8 percent health care tax on investment income above $200,000 (single) and $250,000 (joint filers) in adjusted gross income, so the top rate for capital gains and dividends will be 23.8 percent. For lower income levels, the tax will be 0 percent, 15 percent, or 18.8 percent.

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How NC’s House members voted on the fiscal cliff deal

Picture 2In case you’re interested in how North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation voted on the “fiscal cliff” bill last night, here it is.

The vote was not along strict party lines. Of the seven voting against the deal, five were Republicans and two were Democrats. Of the six voting for the bill, five were Democrats and one was Republican. In all, 85 Republicans voted for the bill and 151 voted against it. Eighty-two Democrats joined the 85 Republicans to oppose the bill.

The good news? This deal only lasts a month or two. There will be another “fiscal cliff” crisis on March 1.

G.K. Butterfield (D) – Yes
David Price (D) – Yes
Renee Ellmers (R) – No
Walter Jones (R) – No
Virginia Foxx (R) – No
Howard Coble (R) – Yes
Mike McIntyre (D) – No
Larry Kissel (D) – Yes
Sue Myrick (R) – No
Patrick McHenry (R) – No
Heath Shuler (D) – Yes
Mel Watt – (D) Yes
Brad Miller (D) – No

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And It Didn’t Take A Government Program

Here’s a great story about young people who’ve discovered that it doesn’t take a government program to help people in need. What it takes is an understanding that each of us has a moral obligation to step up and help, and the moral instruction that embraces the power of the individual to change lives.

The girls of the Franciscan School’s junior varsity basketball team wanted to do more than eat holiday treats and exchange gifts this year at their annual Christmas party.

So after some brainstorming, they decided to hold a food drive. They set their goal at enough to feed 50 families through Catholic Parish Outreach, a local food pantry of Catholic Charities.

“It was really satisfying as a coach to see them embrace the philosophies of sportsmanship and caring for others that we teach to them,” said coach Robert Eastmann.

Congratulations, Coach. You are changing lives by guiding these young women. Unfortunately, this kind of instruction is largely missing in today’s me-me-me society, which has largely ceded responsibility for society’s ills to government.

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What Recovery? 65% Of Americans Say 2013 Will Be Year Of Economic Difficulty

The malaise continues. Just one-third told Gallup pollsters the new year will be one of prosperity.

The 65% of Americans who predict 2013 will be a year of economic difficulty is one of the more negative responses to this question since Gallup first asked it in 1965. There has been, however, a great deal of fluctuation over that time period, from a high of 65% who said 1965 would be a year of prosperity, to a low of 7% who predicted 1974 would be a year of prosperity. A majority of Americans were positive about the economy in 1998 and 1999, while swinging more to the “economic difficulty” side of the ledger when asked about 2005.

You get what you vote for. And at the national level, the country voted for four more years of astronomical spending and borrowing, a growing welfare state, and an anti-success, anti-business belief system that permeates policy. That’s the recipe for economic difficulty.

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