Here is the list provided by the White House:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
Welcome to 2013, folks! I hope everyone had a safe and joyous holiday season. Let’s do tomorrow better than we did yesterday!
Whether you heard the phrase only in passing, have been following the negotiations obsessively, or fall somewhere in between, I’m sure you’re pretty tired of the term “fiscal cliff.” Like many others, my guess is you couldn’t wait for the crisis to be over and for the media to shut the hell up about it, once and for all! Well, let me assure you that this awesome, suspense-filled, drama-fueled last minute deal that was finally passed by Congress on January 1st, 2013 will totally not accomplish that!
Yeah, that’s right. Congress loved the whole “fiscal cliff” episode so much that they’ve decided to repeat the whole thing in March. Dope, right? Many will read this and point out that all the bad stuff that was to have happened had a deal not been reached didn’t happen, thereby making the deal good and everything in the world hunky-dory. But is that really the case? Let’s take a gander.
Since this entire “fiscal cliff” ordeal is actually a problem Washington literally created out of thin air, which led to all this political theater and brinkmanship, it’s probably appropriate to address the politics side of the fiscal deal first before getting into the actual deal itself. This entire self-inflicted crisis, oddly enough, is borne out of another self-inflicted crisis! Back in 2011, Congress — specifically House Republicans — had an awful hard time authorizing the raising of the debt ceiling, a once-routine, bipartisan procedure that had now been turned into a tool used to hold the economy hostage for political gain. Raising the debt ceiling is how the government meets its financial obligations and agrees to pay already-incurred debt. More detailed explanation, here.
To resolve the matter, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed. What that did was immediately raise the debt ceiling, reduce the deficit by about $1 trillion dollars over the next decade, and, most relevant to the crisis we’re dealing with today, establish a committee tasked with making further budget cut recommendations that satisfied a pre-determined benchmark for deficit reduction. If Congress failed to pass a bill with those recommendations by December 23, 2011, dramatic across-the-board cuts would immediately take effect beginning January 1, 2013, potentially crippling the fragile economy. Long story short, December 23rd, 2011 came and went, thereby giving birth to the artificial shot-clock!
If you want a simpler way to look at that, think about it this way: say you have a paper for class that’s due in a couple of months that you need to have done if you want to pass the course. Rather than simply doing the paper like the responsible student that you should be, you decide that you need additional motivation. To ensure that you finish the paper on time, you pledge to drive your car off a bridge if you miss the due date! That’ll motivate you! You trust yourself so little to do the responsible adult stuff that you concoct a doomsday scenario to move things along. The only problem, though, is that as the deadline approaches, it becomes breathtakingly clear that you were right to trust your doubting instincts. Despite the horrible fate that awaits you and your car, you are really struggling to complete the assignment and turn it in on time. Not because you are incapable of completing the assignment, or anything. You just like to procrastinate!
So now, after all the brinkmanship and dramatics, Congress finally reached a deal. There was a whole bunch of drama that preceded the agreement, including the Speaker of the House telling the Senate Majority leader to “go fuck himself,” but I’d be lying if I said I wanted to get into that. Both sides fought to get what they wanted, some were more rational than others, but ultimately a deal was agreed upon, so let’s see what that means for us all.
So about those taxes… they’re going up. I know. This was all supposed to be about preventing taxes from going up, yet they still do. Weird. Could have been a lot worse, though:
Those increases are relatively modest compared to what the fiscal cliff would have imposed, however.The last-minute ‘fiscal cliff’ deal to reverse Congress’ ruinous, self-inflicted package of federal tax increases and spending cuts will raise the average American household’s tax bill by $1,250 this year, or about $25 a week.
For most Americans, the biggest impact will come from the expiration of a two-year payroll tax “holiday” enacted two years ago to boost the economy. That tax break amounted to two percent of wages.
Bottom line: you’re going to have less money in your check now, though it could have been far worse. Payroll taxes are what will be going up, not income taxes (unless you’re an individual making $400,000 or a couple making $450,000). Capital gains tax (tax on investments) will also remain at the same levels for everyone but those in the aforementioned higher income bracket. To calculate exactly how much more you’ll be paying in payroll taxes, go here:
…And that’s pretty much all the deal accomplishes. I’m not kidding. There are some other things about deductions and the closing of
loopholes, and all that good stuff related to taxes (that you are free to delve if you wish), but the deal still failed to address 2 HUGE reasons the fiscal cliff came to be in the 1st place, hence the “and why it sucks” part of the post title. This deal, except for what it does with taxes, is nothing more than the proverbial kicking of the can down the road.
The 1st major thing it fails to address is the whole dramatic across-the-board spending cuts thingy (also known as “sequestration” if you’re nasty or “driving your car off the bridge” if you’re a college student writing a paper) that was supposed to go into effect in the absence of a deal that achieved the desired level of long-term deficit reduction. It’s still going to effect, only later! So two months from now, just when you’re getting used to life without the phrase “fiscal cliff,” rest assured that you will once again be hearing it ad nauseum. To be sure, what I’m saying is that two months from now we will be going through the same exact fiscal cliff crisis that we put ourselves through and averted. Except it wasn’t averted. Just delayed. Or something. I don’t know. And when we do revisit this clusterfuck in two months, it will all be doubly more complicated thanks to…….
The debt ceiling! Yes, the debt ceiling that brought about the entire fiscal cliff to begin with! Emerging from behind the curtain like a menacing heel running towards the ring, the debt ceiling is back to taunt the crowd, do a few nonathletic wrestling moves and hit our fearless yet weary heroes, “logic” and “common sense” in the back with a steel chair!
Congress. They know drama.
Full transcript here:
It looks like the bad guys won:
Embattled U.N. envoy Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments, she told NBC News on Thursday.
“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she’s saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects.
“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,” she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News.
This is pretty weak. Susan Rice is a person with an impressive record and a stellar reputation. Many believed that the top job at Foggy Bottom would be hers once Secretary Hillary Clinton left her post shortly before — or after — President Obama is sworn in for a 2nd term. And then Benghazi happened. The attack on a US consulate took place smack-dab in the middle of a presidential campaign, so naturally opponents of the president jumped all over the tragedy in an effort to score political points against him. Many on the right, with Senator John McCain leading the charge, decided that Susan Rice would be their target. Her crime? Accurately repeating talking points she received from the CIA on Libya:
WASHINGTON – CBS News has obtained the CIA talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Sept. 15 regarding the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, four days earlier. CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan says the talking points, which were also given to members of the House intelligence committee, make no reference to terrorism being a likely factor in the assault, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
She was relentlessly attacked for stating that the attacks began “spontaneously.” McCain even went as far as to question her intelligence, charging that “she’s not very bright.” Hmm. Let’s see what the CIA memo she was given said in, its entirety:
- The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
- This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
- The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of US citizens.
So apparently she isn’t very bright because she did precisely what she was asked by the White House to do, and competently.
From the start of this public crusade against Rice’s nomination, very little of it made sense. Again, questioning her competency made zero sense and struck me as disrespectful. A Rhodes Scholar who has absolutely excelled at basically everything she’s done? Unqualified? Shut the entire fuck up. Also, that’s pretty rich coming from the guy who tapped SARAH PALIN to be his running mate.
And, beyond that, wouldn’t the sensible person to attack over the Benghazi situation be, I don’t know, the sitting Secretary of State? Not someone being considered for the job months from now, the actual, still-on-the-job Secretary of State? For Sen. McCain and others to hone in on Rice — the U.S. envoy to the U.N., by the way — instead of Secretary Clinton proved to me that this wasn’t at all about getting to the bottom of anything. And the fact that McCain skipped hearings on the Benghazi attack to complain about not being given enough information about the Benghazi attack confirmed it. This was about an old scumbag senator, who is probably still salty about getting his ass kicked in 2008, trying to hurt President Obama while simultaneously raising his own profile and keeping his name relevant. It’s as transparent a political play as it is sleazy.
I was actually looking forward to President Obama nominating her and watching Republicans look petty and small during the confirmation process. I was very happy when he stood by her and defended her unequivocally in the face of the maligning attacks. It’s pretty regrettable that she withdrew her name, but it’s yet further evidence of her character and the type of public servant she is. Those on the right that viciously maligned her should be absolutely ashamed of themselves, and it’s my hope that the media show this for what it is: a political hit job.
Since getting their derrieres handed to them this past election, the Republican Party has been busy trying to figure out exactly what happened. It’s the painful but natural process all losers must go through in order to prevent a loss that bad from happening again. While many in the party have acknowledged that the problem lies with the GOP itself, not all are on the same page. Yesterday, PPP released a poll that offered up an interesting theory for why they lost so badly. Brace yourselves:
49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.
More Republican Alternate Universe for you. 49% (!) of GOP voters think a group that has been extinct since 2010 stole the election.
Stupidity should hurt.
Acclaimed author, Berkeley professor, and Clinton-era Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lays out the what, why and how of the Fiscal “Cliff”, the showdown in Congress that Republicans created to demand painful cuts in vital domestic programs in exchange for raising taxes on the top 2%. Learn the facts, and the best way out of this forced showdown.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since Republican delusion collided with reality. That, of course, resulted in President Barack Obama being easily reelected and Democrats maintaining control of the Senate.
Immediately following that shellacking was the universal acknowledgment that the current electoral map of the Republican Party is unsustainable, given the ever-shifting demographics of this country. The United States is becoming younger, browner, and more socially liberal, a reality that is clearly at odds with the current state of the Republican Party. Thankfully, many on the right are coming to their senses. We’ve already seen some come out and openly say that they need to smarten up and broaden their appeal. Not necessarily because they believe it’s the right thing to do, but rather because this is about survival. If pragmatism is the way they arrive at modernizing their party and updating their platform, that’s still good in my book. Like Rachel Maddow has said many times, having 2 viable political parties in a 2-party system is actually a good thing.
So they’re obviously in deep trouble in terms of trending demographics, but what about their base, the ones they can always count on to vote Republican? Primarily, the GOP stronghold is in the south, specifically with the white southern vote. But as Douglas Blackmon of the Washington Post notes, that dog don’t hunt like it used to:
Yet even as that incident evoked ugly memories of an earlier era, Election Day in the South told a newer and more surprising story: The nation’s first black president finished more strongly in the region than any other Democratic nominee in three decades, underscoring a fresh challenge for Republicans who rely on Southern whites as their base of national support.
Obama won Virginia and Florida and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. But he also polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states.
Much of the post-election analysis has focused on the demographic crisis facing Republicans among Hispanic voters, particularly in Texas. But the results across other parts of the South, where Latinos remain a single-digit minority, point to separate trends among blacks and whites that may also have big implications for the GOP’s future.
If you’re a Republican, that is pretty alarming to hear. It’s not just Latinos you have to worry about courting, anymore. Like Blackmon points out, the demographics of Texas does make the reliably red state an area of concern for Republicans. But in the broader south, they seem to be losing their grip even among whites.
The proportion of white voters in the South is also shrinking. Southern whites voted overwhelmingly for Romney, but in six Southern states, far fewer of them appear to have gone to the polls on Nov. 6 than the number who voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
In Florida, the share of votes cast by whites this year fell to 66 percent, down from 73 percent in 2000. In Georgia, the number of white voters declined while African American registration increased nearly 6 percent and Hispanic voters grew by 36 percent.
“Republicans can focus all they want on Hispanics,” said John Anzalone, a Montgomery, Ala., pollster who helped analyze swing states for the Obama campaign. “But they also have a problem with whites, in this election cycle, just showing up.”
Some of that could just be the candidate, Mitt Romney. He was never really fully embraced by “true” conservatives, so it could be that he just failed at getting the enthusiasm to where it needed to be. But the combination of a shrinking conservative base and an evolving country that leans left is a problem far greater than the shortcomings of a candidate. It’s evidence of a party that has fallen out of step with the mainstream of America, and it puts them in an untenable position going forward. To reverse this course leading towards electoral irrelevance, they are going to have to do more than simply say what they think people want to hear. They must fundamentally evolve as a party and become more inclusive. It may erode their
stubborn southern white vote even further, but the net gain will be more than worth it.