Archive for January 25th, 2010

“President Obama’s Plan: Soak The Rich, Coddle The Middle Class” by Jillian Bandes

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The early word about Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday is that the President will announce extensive plans to alleviate financial burdens on America’s middle class — his most reliable bloc of voters. These moves are apparently designed to distract such voters from his failure on health care reform.

The proposals include doubling the child care tax credit for families who make less than $85,000; a $1.6 billion increase in child care funding, and “capping student loan payments to 10 percent of income above ‘a basic living allowance.'”

If you make under $85,000 (but not $86,000!) he also wants you to get a tax credit that matches the amount you save for retirement, and a tax break if you are caring for elderly relatives.

I like fewer taxes, in any way, shape, or form. But this proposal, like all other special taxbreaks for special classes of Americans, will further dis-incentivize people from trying to make more than the government allows.

Original Link.

Urgent Need for Tent Cities for Haitian Refugees

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The people of Haiti are still suffering terribly from the earthquake almost two weeks ago. Please continue to pray for them and, if possible, help them by donating to aid them trough reputable organization.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Grieving families are watching workers recover the bodies of loved ones as Haiti’s death roll rises, while aid groups focusing on the living struggle to find tents and sites to erect them for all the people streaming out of Port-au-Prince.

It could take experts weeks to search out sites suitable for enough tent cities to hold earthquake refugees, the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency, said Sunday.

“We also need tents. There is a shortage of tents,” said Vincent Houver, the Geneva-based agency’s chief of mission in Haiti.

Houver said the agency’s warehouse in Port-au-Prince holds 10,000 family-size tents, but he estimates 100,000 are needed. The organization has appealed for $30 million to pay for tents and other aid needs and has received two-thirds of that so far, he said.

Haiti’s government wants the estimated 600,000 homeless huddled in open areas of Port-au-Prince, a city of 2 million, to look for better shelter with relatives or others elsewhere. Some 200,000 are believed to have fled already, most taking advantage of free government transport, and others formed a steady stream out of the city Sunday.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 have returned to the region around the coastal city of Gonaives in northern Haiti, a city abandoned by many after two devastating floods in six years.

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Obama Administration Steers Lucrative No-Bid Contract for Afghan Work to Dem Donor

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Did Obama criticize Bush for doing this and promise not to do the same thing? Hummm…..

Despite President Obama’s long history of criticizing the Bush administration for “sweetheart deals” with favored contractors, the Obama administration this month awarded a $25 million federal contract for work in Afghanistan to a company owned by a Democratic campaign contributor without entertaining competitive bids, Fox News has learned.

The contract, awarded on Jan. 4 to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a Washington-based firm owned by economist and Democratic donor Vincent V. Checchi, will pay the firm $24,673,427 to provide “rule of law stabilization services” in war-torn Afghanistan.

A synopsis of the contract published on the USAID Web site says Checchi & Company will “train the next generation of legal professionals” throughout the Afghan provinces and thereby “develop the capacity of Afghanistan’s justice system to be accessible, reliable, and fair.”

The legality of the arrangement as a “sole source,” or no-bid, contract was made possible by virtue of a waiver signed by the USAID administrator. “They cancelled the open bid on this when they came to power earlier this year,” a source familiar with the federal contracting process told Fox News.

“That’s kind of weird,” said another source, who has worked on “rule of law” issues in both Afghanistan and Iraq, about the no-bid contract to Checchi & Company. “There’s lots of companies and non-governmental organizations that do this sort of work.”

Contacted by Fox News, Checchi confirmed that his company had indeed received the nearly $25 million contract but declined to say why it had been awarded on a no-bid basis, referring a reporter to USAID.

Asked if he or his firm had been aware that the contract was awarded without competitive bids, Checchi replied: “After it was awarded to us, sure. Before, we had no idea.”

He declined to answer further questions, however, and again referred Fox News to USAID, saying: “I don’t want to speak for the U.S. government.”

Asked about the contract, USAID Acting Press Director Harry Edwards at first suggested his office would be too “busy” to comment on it. “I’ll tell it to the people in Haiti,” Edwards snapped when a Fox News reporter indicated the story would soon be made public. The USAID press office did not respond further.

Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Fox News’ reporting on the no-bid contract in this case “disturbed” him.

Issa has written to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah requesting that the agency “produce all documents related to the Checchi contract” on or before Feb. 5. Citing the waiver that enabled USAID to award the contract on a no-bid basis, Issa noted that the exemption was intended to speed up the provision of services in a crisis environment.

Yet “on its face,” wrote Issa to Shah, “the consulting contract awarded to Checchi to support the Afghan justice system does not appear to be so urgent or attendant to an immediate need so as to justify such a waiver.”

Corporate rivals of Checchi were reluctant to speak on the record about the no-bid contract awarded to his firm because they feared possible retribution by the Obama administration in the awarding of future contracts.

“We don’t want to be blackballed,” said the managing partner of a consulting firm that has won similar contracts. “You’ve got to be careful. We’re dealing here with people and offices that we depend on for our business.”

Still, the rival executive confirmed that open bidding on USAID’s lucrative Afghanistan “rule of law” contract was abruptly revoked by the agency earlier this year.

“It’s a mystery to us,” the managing partner said. “We were going to bid on it. The solicitation (for bids) got pulled back, and we do not know why. We may never know why. These are things that we, as companies doing business with the government, have to put up with.”

As a candidate for president in 2008, then-Sen. Obama frequently derided the Bush administration for the awarding of federal contracts without competitive bidding.

“I will finally end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all,” the senator told a Grand Rapids audience on Oct. 2. “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House.”

Those remarks echoed an earlier occasion, during a candidates’ debate in Austin, Texas on Feb. 21, when Mr. Obama vowed to upgrade the government’s online databases listing federal contracts.

“If (the American people) see a bridge to nowhere being built, they know where it’s going and who sponsored it,” he said to audience laughter, “and if they see a no-bid contract going to Halliburton, they can check that out too.”

Less than two months after he was sworn into office, President Obama signed a memorandum that he claimed would “dramatically reform the way we do business on contracts across the entire government.”

Flanked by aides and lawmakers at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 4, Obama vowed to “end unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus contracts,” adding: “In some cases, contracts are awarded without competition….And that’s completely unacceptable.”

The March 4 memorandum directed the Office of Management and Budget to “maximize the use of full and open competition” in the awarding of federal contracts.

Federal campaign records show Checchi has been a frequent contributor to liberal and Democratic causes and candidates in recent years, including to Obama’s presidential campaign.

The records show Checchi has given at least $6,600 to Obama dating back to March 2007. The contractor has also made donations to various arms of the Democratic National Committee, to liberal activist groups like MoveOn.org and ActBlue, and to other party politicians like Sen. John F. Kerry, former presidential candidate John Edwards and former Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont.

Sources confirmed to Fox News that Checchi & Company is but one of a number of private firms capable of performing the work in Afghanistan for which USAID retained it.

Original Link.