Archive for September 3rd, 2009

Direct You in the Way You Should Go

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.

Isaiah 48:17 (New International Version)

Dems Target High Earners to Fund Health Plan

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Not the first time and certainly not the last that the Dems will try this failed policy of “success punishment”.

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are revisiting proposals to raise taxes on high-income people to help pay for an overhaul of the health-care system.

The main proposal getting renewed attention is one by President Barack Obama that would limit the federal tax deductions for higher-income families for mortgage interest and other widely claimed purposes, said two senior Senate Democratic aides.

The development reflects a hardening of partisan lines in the effort to forge a health-care bill. Raising taxes on the wealthy was regarded as a virtual deal-breaker for Senate Republicans engaged in negotiations over the spring and summer. So Senate Democrats steered clear of such an approach.

“Bluntly…the idea of getting Republicans on board [a health-care overhaul] is becoming much more fantastical, so some ideas that were jettisoned for that reason are coming back,” said one aide.

Targeting the rich also conflicted with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s hopes of taxing the most costly employer-based health plans as a way to reduce overall health-care spending. But many Democrats are losing hope that Baucus’s bipartisan negotiations will produce a deal, so they are beginning to plan for a bill crafted by Democrats. A spokeswoman for Baucus (D., Mont.) said his committee is still pursuing a bipartisan bill.

Placing much of the burden of a health-care overhaul on higher-income earners is likely to face political hurdles of its own, particularly among moderate Democrats. And limiting the value of deductions for higher-income earners could run into opposition with some interest groups, such as the real-estate industry.

Obama had originally proposed capping the value of itemized deductions at 28% of the total claimed for families making more than $250,000, as a way to help pay for a health-care overhaul. If Senate Democrats decide to include the president’s idea in a health bill, the actual cap could be somewhat more generous to taxpayers — potentially as high as 35%, said the Democratic aides.

Original Link.

Obama to Address Congress to Rally Support for ObamaCare

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

President Obama will try to invigorate the push for health care reform during an address to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday, FOX News has learned.

The decision comes as the White House is revamping its approach, following a rocky August recess. Advisers said earlier that the president will try to reframe the debate by rallying Democrats around the partisan bills that have already advanced. In doing so, Obama appears to be abandoning hopes for a bipartisan breakthrough on health care reform.

During the speech, the president is expected to highlight the absence of a key advocate of health care reform, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, and pledge to achieve the senator’s health care goals.

The decision to hold such an address is rare. The only times in recent history that a U.S. president delivered a non-“State of the Union” address before a joint session of Congress was in September 2001, when President George W. Bush addressed the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks, and in September 1993, when President Bill Clinton used the forum to push his health care reform package.

Republicans quickly criticized the move.

“The White House and Congressional Democrats lost the month of August, and with it public opinion,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Lecturing members of the United States Congress is not the answer to the Democrats’ growing political problems, dumping their plans for a health care takeover is.

“We know the president can give a great speech,” he said. “The question is whether or not he can hold his own party together.”

Obama and lawmakers are returning from recess to an intensely partisan environment. Top White House officials over the past few days have blasted Republicans who were part of a “Gang of Six” negotiating team on the Senate Finance Committee, accusing them of stonewalling progress on what was considered the only bipartisan package in Congress. The top Republican negotiator fired back on Wednesday, with his spokeswoman saying the bipartisan negotiations will go forward.

But the path forward, as the president sees it, is to unify Democrats around the three House bills and one Senate bill that have already passed out of committee, according to senior administration aides. This strategy suggests the Senate Finance Committee is considered a lost cause and that the White House will use the Democratic Party’s strong majority in both chambers to finish the job.

“We are entering a new phase driven in part by the actions of some in the GOP. They are essentially walking away from the table,” said one senior Obama administration adviser, referring to GOP Senate Finance Committee negotiators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

“Now is the time to begin to pull together the various strands and solutions from the four bills that have been marked up and other proposals,” one adviser told FOX News. “Basically all the cards are on the table.”

The assessment comes after Enzi blasted Democratic proposals in a radio address over the weekend and after Grassley asked people for “support in helping me defeat Obama-care” in an August fundraising letter.

The White House’s discontent with their actions was made clear early this week.

“I think Senator Enzi’s clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided that it’s time to walk away from the table,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

White House adviser David Axelrod also condemned their comments.

Their remarks, he said, “were not exactly consistent with good-faith negotiations.”

But Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said the senator’s letter was “nothing new” and that the White House accusations were unjustified.

“Attacks by political operatives in the White House undermine bipartisan efforts and drive senators away from the table,” she said, calling the other four bills “policy failures” that have “been rejected at the grassroots.” She said the Senate Democratic negotiators have the same concerns as Republicans, and that the group of six will hold its scheduled conference call Friday to continue working toward a bipartisan bill.

Though it was reported that Obama had no plans to insist on a controversial government-run insurance plan in his speech, White House advisers insisted it remains in the mix.

“The president thinks it’s the best way to achieve his ultimate goal — choice and competition — but certainly not the only way to get there,” one adviser said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi feels differently. Speaking in her hometown of San Francisco Wednesday, Pelosi insisted that the bill that emerges from Congress will have a public option. “Let me say it another way,” she said. “We can’t pass a bill without a public option.”

Original Link.

Critics Decry Obama’s ‘Indoctrination’ Plan for Students

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

A suggested lesson plan that calls on school kids to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help President Obama is troubling some education experts, who say it establishes the president as a “superintendent in chief” and may indoctrinate children to support him politically.

But the White House says the speech is merely “designed to encourage kids to stay in school.”

Obama will deliver a national address directly to students on Tuesday, which will be the first day of classes for many children across the country. The address, to be broadcast live on the White House’s Web site, was announced in a letter to school principals last week by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Obama intends to “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning,” Duncan wrote. Obama will also call for a “shared responsibility” among students, parents and educators to maximize learning potential.

“The goal of the speech and the lesson plans is to challenge students to work hard in school, to not drop out and to meet short-term goals like behaving in class, doing their homework and goals that parents and teachers alike can agree are noble,” Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, told FOXNews.com. “This isn’t a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school.”

But in advance of the address, the Department of Education has offered educators “classroom activities” to coincide with Obama’s message.

Students in grades pre-K-6, for example, are encouraged to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”

Teachers are also given guidance to tell students to “build background knowledge about the president of the United States by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama.”

During the speech, “teachers can ask students to write down key ideas or phrases that are important or personally meaningful.”

For grades 7-12, the Department of Education suggests teachers prepare by excerpting quotes from Obama’s speeches on education for their students to contemplate — and ask as questions such as “Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us? How will he challenge us?”

Activities suggested for after the speech include asking students “what resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines/phrase do you remember?”

Obama announced his intention to deliver the address to students during an interview with Damon Weaver, a middle school student from Florida who gained a following of his own last year on the campaign trail for his interviews of high-profile figures.

The Department of Education is using the president’s address to kick off a video contest titled, “I Am What I Learn,” in which students are invited to submit videos of up to two minutes on the importance of education in achieving their dreams.

Obama’s critics say the lesson plans and the president’s calls for a “supportive community” are troubling on many levels.

“In general, I don’t think there’s a problem if the president uses the bully pulpit to tell kids to work hard, study hard and things like that. But there are some troubling hints in this, both educationally and politically,” said Neal McCluskey, associate director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

Among the concerns, McCluskey said, is the notion that students who do not support Obama or his educational policies will begin the school year “behind the eight ball,” or somehow academically trailing their peers.

“It essentially tries to force kids to say the president and the presidency is inspiring, and that’s very problematic,” McCluskey said. “It’s very concerning that you would do that.”

Parents of public school students would also have to pay for that “indoctrination,” regardless of their political background, he said.

“That’s the fundamental problem. They could easily be funding the indoctrination of their children.”

Original Link.